The Age of Worms

Session Sixty-Two
In Which We Drink From the Fountain (a.k.a., Story Time with Uncle Buttons)

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (WhatEVER)

After Sayren-Lei yields, there is an expectant pause amongst the Wild Watchers. Sayren-Lei looks defiantly at the other two. Tylanthros simply stares back without emotion. Some sort of non-verbal communication seems to pass between them, then Sayren-Lei’s shoulders slump. “To atone for my outburst, I wish to offer – "

Tylanthros interrupts, “They are entitled to…”

“My elemental banners: they are yours to claim, if any of you might desire one. They can only be gifted to a specific person, but they are yours for the remainder of your life.”

Four members of the party step up to claim Sayren-Lei’s banners: Scar-Eater claims Air, Jane Fire, Tyrrell Water, and Long Fist Earth.

The four Wild Watchers – Tylanthros, Beskawahn, Thadimar, and Sayren-Lei come together and link hands. The obsidian portal stone shimmers and transforms into a remarkable obsidian fountain, its waters cool and sparkling with a rainbow of scintillating light. You all feel an immediate rush of nostalgia – for what, you don’t even know. None of you had childhoods you much cared about. In the case of some of you, you don’t even remember your childhoods. Yet still that emotion is there: a longing for things once known, things nearly forgotten.

Tylanthros speaks. “You have earned the right to return the lore of the Fountain of Dreams to the world. The work of the Order of the Storm is truly done now. The Age of Worms is upon us, and what the powers of old began so long ago now falls to you to complete – if you wish to do so. Drink deep and REMEMBER.”

They do.

Instantly, they are overwhelmed by a sudden rush of alien yet strangely familiar memories. The world around them swirls away into a vortex of lightning and wind, fire and rain, ending in…utter darkness and nothingness.

For several moments, they drift in silence. Only moments, yet long enough to feel the cold perpetuity of the infinite expanse of Time weigh upon them.

And then…with a sudden wrench…

Their minds merge in the spaceless, timeless void of knowledge and nothingness. They lose all sense of self, forgetting that there even was such a thing as “self” and for an eternal frozen instant in time, they experience what it is to be each member of the party as that member of the party, and they experience from inside each other’s minds how the others perceive them, in a rush of indistinguishable thoughts and impressions.

They feel what it is to be Tyrrell: desperate to purge his memories of Hades, but staring down the reality that they’ll haunt him forever. Knowing that he is Tyrrell, but clearly not Tyrrell. To be not-quite-content with the changes…yet acknowledging that the memory of what he used to be is fading. Mourning – always mourning – something lost…but losing sight of what that even is. Was. As far as I know, Tyrrell the human is gone forever. And it’s starting to feel like that human was just a dream. And maybe that’s fine. Because while this quest, stopping this apocalypse, for lack of a better word, is the most important thing I could possibly be a part of…I’m starting to feel like it might just be better to destroy the world than let it fall under the sway of Kyuss. I remember once having aspirations in the world of Thieves, but that seems small and petty now. I hope there is another purpose for me should I survive the days to come, but I don’t know what that could be.

They feel what the others think of Tyrrell in an avalanche of voices and thoughts:

“He is the thorn.”

“He is brass.”

“He’s like a big brother. The one who picks on you and makes you cry. But it’s not like he meant to do that.”

“Though I do not believe he thinks of me as a friend, I care for him.”

“He is a mystery to me but one I instinctively trust. It’s easy to accept him for exactly who he is, even when we disagree.”

“He’s always looking for the angle. The way out. The thing that will totally screw our enemies. And he’s good at it.”

“When fights are headed south, I look to him to turn the tide.”

“I need him in the shadows conjuring the solution no one else saw.”

“He has the worst fucking luck. Whenever the world is gonna throw stuff at us it always seems to get him first. Always.”

“His constant state of transition concerns me, and I keep a vigilant eye on his progress. I would take no pleasure in destroying him.”

They feel what it is to be Scar-Eater: lost, alone, raging in hatred, a voyager without a path before he met his friends…and a path – THE path – opened up before him. Aching to be known as more than just a “local legend,” craving to be feared and admired by all for stopping the Age of Worms. I will meet my enemies head-on, raging in a Blaze of Glory (cue Bon-Jovi), and the last thing they will know is failure – surrounded, prone, useless, humiliated, with all of us looking down on them, pissing on their shattered dreams. And then, when the possibility of the Age of Worms is ended, I will bring on the great Age of Sleeping till Mid-day and seek a shard of what others call peace. Seriously, when do I get to take a fucking nap?

They feel what the others think of Scar-Eater in a blast of voices and thoughts:

“He is the fire of chaos.”

“Always explicit in his desires and actions.”

“He doesn’t take shit from anyone.”

“He always makes me laugh.”

“I love his devil-may-care attitude.”

“I wish I was brave like him.”

“Completely unambiguous, and all the more reliable for it.”

“His steadfast reliability is an endless source of comfort to me.”

“I don’t share his relish for destruction but I see his honesty as a kind of honor.”

“I hope that when he’s smashing things apart that he’s living the way he wants to, and filling whatever hole was torn in his life.”

Though he’s not present, his absence is a presence strongly felt, and they feel what everyone thinks of Archie, in a flood of thoughts and voices:

“He is the anchor.”

“He’s got our backs. I wish we could have his back. I wish he was here with us right now.”

“Capable, smart, brave, uncomplicated, willing to do what needs to be done.”

“That guy is like the only adult. The rest of us are running around doing whatever stupid shit we’re doing and he’s on a mission.”

“He’s responsible in a way the rest of us aren’t.”

“I need his eye when the situation gets hairy.”

“As an ally he is invaluable, but I fear him.”

“He unnerves me. An efficient killing machine distant from the impact of his deadly work.”

“I remember being jealous of him, feeling usurped by him, but those memories are fading.”

“The idea of never seeing him again, or of him being fundamentally changed upon our reunion, is intensely painful.”

“Holy crap, he’s gonna be so fucking old when we see him next.”

They feel what it is to be Long Fist: to KNOW so little, but to be sure of one thing: the evil and undead that wish to claim this world, these lives, must be stopped. Wishing to see to see the creatures of Oerth free from corruption, despair and darkness. Hoping and persevering…despite hopelessness and fear…in the face of all uncertainty. I have faith…in what, exactly? In hope. In honor. Every time I have witnessed the vanity and hubris that my comrades…no, my comrades and I…are susceptible to, I experience the pain brought on by division and detachment. My misguided desires to appease the few have lead me to capitulate to an ideal that isn’t true to my heart. I have failed myself. And by failing myself, I have failed my friends. BUT I also believe in forgiveness and redemption. So where does that leave me? Where does that lead me?

They feel what the others think of Long Fist in a cascading rush of voices and thoughts:

“He is the wall.”

“He is a giant, dangerous puppy that’s always there for you. No matter what.”

“He throws himself into the fire over and over again, sacrificing himself without ever thinking about it. And all out of real love and the biggest heart ever. He does that for all of us.”

“I admire how he’s faced death time and again, shaking it off and marching on.”

“I love how he takes all the punches till I can get there.”

“I fear I’ll never be able to thank him properly.”

“He is a source of comfort that the possibility of true goodness can exist. But I worry that he himself does not fully understand what it will take to get himself there.”

“I’ll NEVER understand all that striving for Paladin-like goody-two-shoes bullshit. I can’t see any possible justification for that worldview. ”

“I respect his conviction, but can never be comfortable around him as long as he is so uncomfortable in his own skin.”

“I wish that he could protect himself better from himself.”

“Fear drives his actions and I fear for that in him.”

They feel what it is to be Riddle: dreaming of safety, which he can never have. Dreaming of a family, robbed from him forever. Enslaved against his will to a bunch of old dead gods, like a fucking FREAK. Looking like a freak. Girls don’t like bald guys. I’ll be alone forever. I’m not even human anymore. And every time I make a fucking choice, this fucking prophecy makes me a joke. I don’t even deserve what I have. Everyone in the party had real skills and abilities before we met. I just fell into a vat of weird shit and got connected to these Vaati. If I wasn’t connected to them what use would I be? “Hey guys you go on and save the world and I’ll just hang out over here like a total fucking loser.” I thought having power would make me not be a loser anymore. Now I’m just a loser with powers. And no independence. This stupid fucking prophecy. These stupid fucking dead gods. Gods are so fucking stupid. Of the living gods, only the really shitty evil ones seem to be doing anything. The “good” ones have their heads in the fucking sand. Fuck them. Fuck this.

They feel what the others think of Riddle in a wash of thoughts and voices:

“He is the storm.”

“I admire his knowledge of, well, basically everything.”

“We need his chaos in battle”

“His emotions are an endless source of mystery and confusion, but I admire his ability to think abstractly and to act on instinct.”

“Riddle is as his name implies. He takes bold leadership yet derides alternate points of view, which speaks of weakness.”

“I’m utterly baffled by him.”

“He is consistent on the battlefield but his loyalty never seems selfless.”

“I can’t comprehend his relationship with whoever it is he communes with. But I’m always happy for the way he pulls us out of the fire.”

“He may be the most powerful of us all – for which I love…and fear him.”

They feel what it is to be Jane: striving to understand and ACCEPT each thing for what it is. Including her companions. Recognizing that any desire to change them is only a projected struggle to change something within herself, which is where her effort is better centered. They provide my sole attachment to the world of humans AS a human. I can’t think of what would happen to my budding humanity without them. Had these people never come into my life I would still be a wolf, cowering in the pits of Diamond Lake, losing whatever remained of my humanity bit by bit. I do not mourn the fate that could have been. I only wish to better understand my companions and why they do the things they do. I want to trust them but I cannot always do so. They are more complicated than beasts and their motives are obscured by emotions. It’s hard to recognize myself as one of them. Though I am certain now that I would continue to pursue my purpose even if I were alone. The Natural World must allowed to progress along its course without overwhelming influence from the tyranny that comes from men and monsters. Sacrifice is justified, even the sacrifice of self, physical and moral. Those who would usurp the power of the Natural World for their own ends must be removed from the equation one way or another.

They feel what the others think of Jane, in a furious rush of thoughts and voices:

“She is the beast.”

“Her power and wisdom far extend beyond the experience of us all.”

“She is my best friend. She calls me out on my shit and makes me think about things in a different way.”

“I admire her ability to adapt. I need her to continue strategizing clearly during the coming trials.”

“She is the unquestioned leader of the party, waiting in the wings to assume the mantle we all hope she’ll take up.”

“She’s clearly the leader of this party, even though she’s the only one that doesn’t seem to see that.”

“She’s our leader and the most rational moral compass of the group, which I…mostly respect. But not always.”

“I just wish she wouldn’t worry so much.”

“I loved her friendship and camaraderie during what feels like another life, and I understand that that past – and that person — are gone now.”

“There is a kindness in her which I appreciate, and yet there is also a growing sense of detachment from the world and its cares which fills me with sorrow.”

“How do you mourn for a friend who’s still alive?”

Their overlapping, communal mind-mass steps back from its dip into the waters of personality, identity, and self and expands into the realm of Desire and Direction. Though it’s hard – so hard – to concentrate, they can feel each other wrestling your shared consciousness onto the task of directing the Fountain of Dreams to a particular piece of information. Like steady heartbeat, something throbs immediately to the foreground: a shared question, “Where is the phylactery of Dragotha?” They feel a lurch in the timeless void for a moment…and then a wrenching halt as another question races forward – not quite past the initial question, but urged almost as universally strongly: “What is the source of my power?” They feel the Fountain absorb that question into the first question and begin racing their shared consciousness off into one distant direction of the void outside of time and space.

As they travel, they each slowly start to regain a sense of what it is to be THEM. As you travel, they hear the drumbeat of the two questions – “Where is the phylactery of Dragotha?” and “What is the source of my power?” – moving them ever onward, seasoned occasionally by faint, distant outbursts of random mind-noise, questions like “How’d my finger get there…?” and “Father, did you ever love me?”

As they travel, they begin to gain some understanding of how the Fountain of Dreams works. In order to collect and hold all information that has passed out of knowledge for all time…the Fountain must exist not outside of Time but somehow in ALL Times. Once the magic that created the Fountain brought the Fountain into existence…the Fountain had ALWAYS existed. WILL always exist. Until its waters are drunk. And then it will cease to exist. Cease to have EVER existed. But in order to hold all secrets that pass outside of Time and knowledge, the Fountain exists in all times. And it doesn’t function like a library – cataloguing and imparting information from a distance – it imparts knowledge by bringing the drinker TO the moment in history when their question can be answered. They will actually VISIT the answer to their question…

Or, in this case, questions. “Where is the phylactery of Dragotha?” and “What is the source of my power…?” “How’d my finger get there…?” and “Father, did you ever love me?”

So, here they go. They are now traveling back in time to the answer of their Questions. Starting at the beginning, then moving forward through time back to the present.

Back and back they go, drifting through time and space and understanding. Days turn into weeks into months into years into centuries as time and space fly past their perception in a mind-numbing blur of sensory input. They sense the cacophony of their companions’ questions to the Fountain of Dreams, murmuring and babbling in the background, with one idea pulsing and pounding above all others “What is the source of my power?”

And finally, they settle in one place, one time.

They see a dark alley late at night. They are not there yet, but soon they will be. The power of the Fountain is slowly bringing them into being here, now. Then, there.

It is nearly 3,000 years ago. It is a small town. There is a festival. There is noise. There is light. But not here. Not in this alley. A young woman returns from a dance where she just kissed Devin for the first time. She is Lara. Her father calls her Lara-belle. Her sister calls her Belle. This is her town, her street. She feels safe. She doesn’t notice the darkness. She doesn’t notice the lack of people around her. She doesn’t notice the figure lurking in the shadows of the alleyway.

They are not yet materialized, but they see it happen. The figure grabs the girl. The girl cries out. She knows what is about to happen. She screams.

They are not yet there yet, but they see it happen. A man stumbles past the alley. He hears the cry, or he thinks he does. A hand has clamped so tight over Lara’s mouth that she cannot make another sound.

The attacker’s strength is terrifying.

The man at the mouth of the alley stops. Did he hear something? Did it sound like a girl in pain? The man is tired. He lost at dice tonight. He has a family of his own. He would hate to get into trouble and leave them high and dry with the crops failing so miserably this year.

The man shrugs and moves on.

The figure in the alley turns its attentions fully to the girl.

They are starting to materialize now, and through the power of the Fountain they know what happens next. The man in the alley is no man. The man is a dragon. One of the worst of the reds. Still a juvenile, but powerful. Still a juvenile, but hungry in its appetites. Craving domination. Curious about what it might be like to have a BROOD. It took human form and now it will take the girl. Lara will survive the rape, but she will not survive the birth of Dragotha’s child as it claws its way out of her. She will not survive to see her offspring become a terror in its own right (with Dragotha having moved on, never bothering to even see if his seed survived). She will not survive to see her offspring father more, and more and more on down the line, monsters of rage and destruction and flame, till the line thins and becomes (more or less human – sort of) and finally, thousands of years later, leads to the birth of Scar-Eater, the only one in generations to feel the burning rage of a thousand suns that it took to awaken the dormant powers.

They are taking solid form in the world now, and as they become REAL in this place and time, the Fountain gives them the gift of comprehension. This is The Choice that was made: one man chose to ignore the call of compassion for another human’s suffering and by inaction allowed an unspeakable act to occur. This is the source of Scar-Eater’s power: power was born in blood, flame, and pain – his power hails from the Dread Tyrant Dragotha, first consort of Tiamat, then for centuries upon centuries the devoted lich servant and highest in command of Kyuss’s armies. Kyuss’s most powerful weapon. The lynchpin for all of Kyuss’s plans. Scar-Eater has been tied to Kyuss’s story since before he was born.

They materialize with an understanding of their choices. They will only be here for a moment. The Fountain brought them here to witness the source of Scar-Eater’s power. Accept that knowledge, do nothing, and move on.


They are here now. They could intervene, save this one girl, save Lara…

And erase Scar-Eater’s entire existence from the pages of history – never to live, never to play his part in stopping Kyuss’s plans in the future, never to use his powers against Kyuss, never to play his part in saving the world.

The Fountain seems to ask: What do you do?

Scar-Eater does nothing.

The multiverse holds together. The party vanishes from this place and time races on, carrying them all with it.

Time slides forward, days and weeks and months and years. They sense their companions’ questions, pulsing in the background, two questions pushing forward now: “What is the source of my power?” and “Father, did you ever love me?”

Finally, they settle in one place, one time.

They are on a small moon floating in the vast emptiness of the Astral night. Above you is a monastery, smooth, angled, white, and perfectly ordered. They are not there yet, but soon they will be. The power of the Fountain is slowly bringing them into being here, now. Then, there.

It is roughly 2,500 years ago. The War against the Queen of Chaos is long over. The Empire of the Vaati is long over. The Age Before Ages is about to turn, and with its passing countless races and civilizations will die out as the multiverse makes way for new stories, new times. Here, at one end of the universe, the last bastion of the Wind Dukes clings to relevancy. 212 souls live here, worshipping Itifaar, the Beginning; Isme, the End; Elistaa, the Order; Taurah, the Blade; K’atiir, the Storm; Faruq, the Light; and Ahlissa, the Mystery. The last souls in all of creation – except one – to worship these dying gods at the dying end of a dying Age.

211 of these souls live in peace with their lot, with their kin, with their station in life. One, however, does not. Senna.

Senna, who was passed over for promotion in a society where station is everything. Senna, who spoke a truth the others did not want to hear, and was punished for it. Punished! In a society where truth and fact are supposed to be paramount. Cast aside. Seething. An outsider with literally nowhere else to turn in the entire universe.

They are not yet materialized, but they see it happening. Senna has a device. They don’t recognize it specifically, but they understand a bomb when they see one. Senna kneels beneath the Pillar of Illitar, one of the seven pillars holding the monastery aloft, and sets the device. He will have to trigger it manually. But what does his death matter in the face of revenge against those who cast him out? It matters naught. Senna is prepared to die.

They are not there yet, but they see it happen. Senna whispers a prayer to Isme and kneels. He prepares to set off the device.

They are starting to materialize now, and through the power of the Fountain they know what happens next. Senna presses the button. The device ignites and over two hundred Wind Dukes die.

This act will leave a single half-vaati demihuman on the Material Plane – named Tanner Land – as the last worshipper of the Seven in the entire multiverse.

The Seven, at their height, were active gods, present gods, from a time when modern strictures and rules regarding the pantheons were different. They lived among their worshippers. And they were not tyrants, trying to micromanage every detail of their mortal realms to suit their desires. They were leaders. Some were good, some were evil, but as a whole they respected order and balance. And above all, they treated their clergy with respect, acknowledging the most powerful as equals, and giving them reign to challenge their decisions and to exercise their own free will. As long as their free will respected the inherent Order of the universe.

But that was long ago.

The Seven are now only clinging to life by a thread. They lost the power to take physical form centuries ago. They lost the power to individually grant spells decades ago – now they can only do so acting in concert. Like they must do everything.

So when this bomb ignites and all their worshippers but one perish from existence, in an act of desperation they will fully surrender their individual godhoods for all time and touch their last worshipper with their remaining power…that some shred of their names, deeds, and power might linger through the ages, and perhaps be born again.

They give their power to Tanner Land. Tanner never knows it, never feels it. He was never strong enough to call forth the power, you see. And even if he had been, he had not the will to control it, to stand toe to toe with the wishes of dead gods and claim their power for his own.

Tanner died, slain before his time by the great Cyclops king, but not before fathering a daughter, who bore a daughter, who bore a son, who fathered many, on and on down the line, leading eventually to Riddle’s grandfather Anders Land.

Anders Land, the nobleman’s son in Alhaster, never satisfied with his station, always chafing, always discontent. Anders Land, who fell in love far above his station, who impregnated his adolescent love with the child that would grow to be Riddle’s uncle, Prince Zeech. Prince Zeech, the tyrant of Alhaster, who took control of the Bandit Kingdoms, who fell under the sway of Kyuss’s second-most powerful ally, gathered a small army of “fallen angels” and in the five years you have been absent from the Material Plane, has prepared his city to be the seat of Kyuss’s return and the birthplace of the Waiting Age: the Age of Worms.

Anders Land, the nobleman’s son who was banished from Alhaster and settled outside Diamond Lake to become a simple farmer. Who hated being a farmer. Who hated the simple life. Anders Land, who married Bemissa Darlan and fathered Colderan, Gertia, and the child that would grow to be Riddle’s uncle, Alistor Land. Alistor Land, who ran away from his father’s drinking at age 13 and died as a child in the Whispering Cairn. Alistor Land who lingered as a ghost, waiting for eternal release. Who found it at the hands of his nephew, never known in life. Who reached an ethereal hand from beyond the grave to open a door for his nephew when he needed help the most.

Anders Land, the simple farmer who was never satisfied. Who snuck behind his wife’s back for nights in the local whorehouse. Anders Land, who impregnated “Lefty” Traise with the girl that would grow to be Riddle’s mother, Seela Traise. Seela Traise, a genentic mutant, but so sweet, so lonely, so in need of protection. Seela, who caught the eye of Allustan Neff, the wizard who acted as protector and mentor in her rough teenage years. Seela, who caught the eye of Allustan’s brother Lanod during a visit from Greyhawk. Lanod, who would fuck up his life in the Free City and be banished to the pity-posting of Mayor of Diamond Lake. Governor-Mayor Lanod Neff, Riddle’s father, who would remember that tormented little girl and have his way with her as his first act as Diamond Lake’s mayor, leading to the birth of Riddle. Riddle, one of his eight sons and three daughters, none of whom he knew about, none of whom he cared about. Seela would try to get access to the mayor, but Seela would fail.

But in the end it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter that Riddle’s grandfather was basically a weak-willed shitheel (despite being the bearer of an ancient bloodline of significant power) who only did a half-assed job of looking after his illegitimate child. One of several. It didn’t matter that Riddle’s father was a privileged, disgusting shitheel who didn’t even know about his illegitimate child (one of many) and wouldn’t have lifted a hand to help him if he did.

It didn’t matter because when Riddle was born, Seela’s life changed forever. Before Riddle, there was only solitude and despair. After Riddle, there was a reason to live. After Riddle, there was a reason to make the best of things. After Riddle, there was a reason for HOPE. And she did hope. Her life was hard, but it had value. And it brought a small piece of light to a dying world at the end of a dying Age in one of the shittiest little shit towns ever to be covered in shit.

Riddle, who always wanted a family, who always sought for more, never content with what he had. Never noticing, acknowledging, or accepting the blessing of having had a mother at all, ignoring her and dreaming of some family ideal that was never his to have. But even if it had been, he would never have been satisfied with his horrible father, his uninspiring grandfather, his tyrant uncle.

Riddle, who always wanted a family, failing to notice the new family that sprung up around him and which needs him more than any of his actual relatives do.

Riddle, always searching for exactly what he already has.

Riddle, blessed with the strength of will to shape his own destiny, forever railing at the universe for robbing him of choices.

Riddle, the only soul in the long Land bloodline to carry the power of the Seven that had the strength of will, the mental discipline, and the courage of Purpose to actually use that power. Even more: with the strength to own the power and make it his.

Riddle, the quintessential teenager.

But, of course…Senna knows none of this. (Remember him?) Senna is thinking only of revenge.

They are taking solid form in the world now, and as they become REAL in this place and time, the Fountain gives them the gift of comprehension. This is The Choice that was made: one man chose vengeance over the lives of his fellows and used his power to slaughter the last of his race. This is the source of Riddle’s power: his power was born in vengeance, destruction, and pain – his power is tied to the forces that stopped one apocalypse in the Age Before Ages, and his bloodline is tied directly to Kyuss’s return through his uncle Zeech, though Zeech certainly never knew about Riddle. Or cared. But Riddle has been tied to Kyuss’s story and to the fight against Chaos since before he was born.

They materialize with an understanding of their choices. They will only be here for a moment. The Fountain brought them here to witness the source of Riddle’s power. Accept that knowledge, fold it into their worldview and understanding, and move on.


They are here now. They could intervene, stop Senna, save the hundreds of lives hanging in the balance above you, prevent the Seven from passing into Tanner Land, thinning his bloodline, forever altering it, leading to different choices, different lives, different couplings, different kin…

And by doing so, erase Riddle’s existence and the existences of his entire bloodline from the pages of history – never to live, never to bring peace and joy to his mother’s life, never to play his part in stopping Kyuss’s plans, never to use his powers against Kyuss, never to play his part in saving the world when it needs him the most.

The Fountain asks: What do you do?

Riddle does nothing.

They vanish from this place and time races on, carrying them all with it.

Days turn into weeks into months into years into centuries as time and space fly past their perception. They sense the chaos of their companions’ questions to the Fountain of Dreams, throbbing in the background like a deep ache, one idea rising above the others “What is the source of my power?”

Finally, they settle in one place, one time.

They see a well-kept living room in a wealthy-looking, sharp-angled house made of smooth stone. They are not there yet, but soon they will be. The power of the Fountain is slowly bringing them into being here, now. Then, there.

It is 2,000 years ago. It is the great and powerful city of Kuluth-Mar at the height of its mortal power. It is vast. It is teeming. The followers of Emperor Kyuss are multitude. Their love and fear is palpable.

There is a festival. There is noise. There is light.

But not here. Not in this house.

A human woman, noticeably and hugely pregnant, sits alone. This is Xera.

She is afraid.

She should be.

Her husband returns home and takes off his helmet. His armor is very familiar to you – it is the armor worn by the Kyuss Knights of Kuluth-Mar when you fought there…will fight there thousands of years in the future. But the armor is bright and clean not, not tarnished by the ages. This is Thrazdan. Not Thrazdan the Deceiver, the name he will take for himself in his afterlife, but simply Thrazdan. He has a position of great honor – personal bodyguard to the Emperor. This position has afforded them many luxuries. For years, Xera could turn a blind eye to the source of her husband’s great wealth because she loved great wealth and all that it brought them. But with the child on the way, Xera has started to reevaluate her choices.

Something about the gathering tomorrow doesn’t feel right. She fears for her life, her husband’s life, her child’s life. She has decided not to go. She has decided to flee, to seek a better life. To somehow atone for the horrors that brought her a life of such decadent comfort.

They are not yet materialized, but they see it happen. Thrazdan senses Xera’s doubts. He is powerful. He is charming. He is persuasive. He holds his wife in his arms and convinces her that everything will be okay, that there is no danger tomorrow, that their position of power will spare them from the pain and suffering visited upon all the sacrifices that have come and all that will come to pass.

They are not there yet, but they see it happen. They see a silver-tongued liar, already craving the rewards of eternal undeath and power beyond reckoning, they see this liar use nothing but his words to talk his wife into walking willingly to her own death and the death of their child.

Xera is reassured. She promises to attend the ceremony tomorrow. Thrazdan smiles. He kisses her forehead. He lays a hand on her belly. When the baby kicks, they share a laugh. Thrazdan puts his helmet back on, walks out the front door and into his future (as a foul abomination) with an easy heart and a spring in his step.

They are starting to materialize now, and through the power of the Fountain they know what happens next. Tomorrow, Xera joins the tens of thousands of others in the square before the Great Ziggurat. When Kyuss ascends to godhood, the shadowy wave of necromantic energy will strike her down like it strikes down the tens of thousands of others, forever desecrating this place. Among the sea of corpses, some already rising and vomiting worms, a baby with no name, touched by shadow and death, but protected by its mother’s flesh, touched and changed, doomed to Hades, but alive…after a fashion – among this endless sea of death and horror, a baby will emerge from the womb.

A Wormcaller will discover it squalling and find it humorous. It will debate between crushing its helpless little skull or turning it into the world to wreak some delightful havoc. It will choose the latter.

This nameless baby will survive on the fringes of society and beget offspring. Descendants drawn to the shadows and the night, with an affinity for darkness, the strength to kill, but cursed with sickly bodies and weak, fragile wills. Over time, the line will adapt and transform and grow to appear more or less human and finally, thousands of years later, it will lead to the birth of Tyrell: the only one in generations to pass in and out of death, set foot in the flames of Hades and return to tell the tale, cross the planar boundaries and visit a realm both in time and outside of time, bound in mystery and truth, carrying pieces of his own true nature – a single finger – left there by himself as a guidepost, so that his soul became untethered from the pretense of humanity under which it had always operated.

His ancestors knew what it was to be hunted. His ancestors knew what it was to be feared. His ancestors, to a certain degree, lacked some of the brazen boldness of Tyrell, and all of the purpose. They learned to hide who they were. They self-selected mutations that kept them from public knowledge. But this body is who he always REALLY was, who he was meant to be. And the truth is that his soul is owned by Hades so he’d better be careful about crossing that boundary between life and death – who knows how easily he’ll be able to return next time, or at what cost? Better just live forever, eh…?

They are taking solid form in the world now, and as they become REAL in this place and time, the Fountain gives them the gift of comprehension. This is The Choice that was made: one man chose a lifetime of wealth over the lives of countless others and used his silver tongue to choose dark powers over the life of his own family. This is the source of Tyrrell’s power: his power was born in lies, shadow, and pain – and his power hails directly from Kyuss himself, though he certainly never knew it. Or cared. He has been tied to Kyuss’s story since before he was born.

They materialize with an understanding of your choices. They will only be here for a moment. The Fountain brought them here to witness the source of Tyrrell’s power. Accept that knowledge, do nothing, and move on.


They are here now. They could intervene, talk to Xera, convince her to leave the city tonight, now, while her husband is out, save her life and ensure that her child is born human, healthy, and will never follow the path it followed in this timeline…

And erase Tyrrell’s entire existence from the pages of history – never to live, never to play his part in stopping Kyuss’s plans in the future, never to use his powers against Kyuss, never to play his part in saving the world.

The Fountain asks, What do you do?

Tyrrell does nothing.

They vanish from this place and time races on, carrying them all with it.

Days turn to weeks, to months, to years as centuries of time and space fly past their perception. They sense their companions’ questions to the Fountain of Dreams, two pushing forward now: “What is the source of my power?” and “How’d my finger get there…?”

Finally, they settle in one place, one time.

They see an island. Tilagos Island. Tilagos Island before the Nyr Dyv was covered in perpetual storms. The day those storms began, in fact. Tilagos Island before it was both a location on the Material Plane and its own demi-plane. The very day its split nature was born, in fact. Tilagos is small, unremarkable. Well, mostly unremarkable. But the scene on it and around it is an overwhelming assault on your senses.

It is 1,500 years ago. The sky is filled with smoke, screams, and horror. The din of battle fills their ears. The waters of the unbelievably vast Nyr Dyv have been literally parted to make a path from the north shore of the lake to Tilagos Island. In the distance, great cities – once mighty, forgotten entirely by the party’s time – lie in smoke and ruin. The cacophonous moans of the undead ride on the wind. Though the immediate area is clear of destruction, as far as your eyes can see stand the forces of mankind, a great army of men and women standing against the return of the Wormlord, who recently began to break free of his prison. Who will break all the way free if this assault claims enough lives. The army of mankind is vast. Yet for all their numbers it is immediately obvious that they fight a losing battle.

Beyond them come the armies of the dead, an endless wave of undead, swarming over the earth, unstoppable. They see familiar creatures: Spawn of Kyuss, Wormcallers, Eviscerator Beetles, Overworms, Ulgurstasas, and more. And there are other, stranger creatures: enormous worm-dripping centipedes who cause the ground they walk on to boil, immense black scorpions whose mere presence turns the living on their allies, and horrific worm-like dragons who breathe out vast swarms of writhing green Kyuss worms. And wheeling in the distant skies, attended by hundreds of smaller dragons, is a terrifying shape: a skeletal red dragon of impossible size. Dragotha.

Dragotha’s forces are remarkably focused. It first seemed like their goal was simply the human army before them. That army, however, is merely the obstacle. The actual goal is the Order of the Storm, gathered near you on Tilagos Island. The forerunners of Dragotha’s forces swarm over and PAST the human army racing on with all speed to the place where you are currently materializing.

They will be here shortly. And they will overwhelm the Order of the Storm.

The Order were the only ones prepared to lead this fight. They have been ready since the previous battle against Kyuss’s forces 500 years previously, when the elves worked their magic to bind the newly-ascended god into the writhing monolith and sealed the site of his blasphemous ascension for all time. The elves moved on, but the Order survived. And remembered. And knew that the Waiting Age – the Age of Worms – is always a possibility.

When the signs became clear, they rallied the forces of mankind to stand and fight. This would be of vital importance. But, sadly, it would also speed along Kyuss’s aim, for each soul that died defending the mortal world would add to Kyuss’s power. It was a fight that in the long run could only lead to defeat, but in the short term was necessary for victory.

Victory could only be brought about in one way: Dragotha must be stopped.

Few creatures in existence have the power to crack a hole in the Wormlord’s cell. Dragotha is currently the only one. He created the rupture. His active concentration holds it open. But soon, the unholy power unleashed by the rising tide of undeath will overwhelm the need for Dragotha’s participation.

Soon, like, minutes from now.

The Tyrant Dracolich must be sent into hiding.

It is unclear whether any now living have the power to destroy him, even temporarily. His power may be far beyond that.

But he might not know that.

And what the Order does have the power to do is to hide away the phylactery they so cleverly stole. And when the location of the phylactery disappears from all knowledge, Dragotha – they hope, they pray – will falter and will flee. The tear in the prison wall will snap shut and the tide against Kyuss’s return will turn for good.

(For now, at least.)

The Order of the Storm is now only thirteen strong. Well, twelve, because the party arrives in time to witness the expiration of Zadia’s life. Her wounds were too great. She was the lynchpin of the Order’s hopes for she would be the power source for the Great Magic, yet with her expiration, you see no pall of hopeless pass over the remaining members of the ancient druid order. No such pall falls over them because prophecy has made it clear that a savior is about to appear. The Daughter of the Storm herself. She will take Zadia’s place and all will be well.

They hope.

They must hope.

The leader of the Order speaks with their greatest ally. The party recognizes the leader at once. It is Tylanthros – but Tylanthros before he became a Wild Watcher. Tylanthros as a mortal man. They recognize the other three watchers among the gathering as well. They are alive, human, in a way in total contrast to the soulless, memoryless automatons of service they just left at the Fountain of Dreams far, far in the future.

Tylanthros speaks with a beautiful, young, vivacious elven woman with silver hair and gleaming silver armor. “ Lashonna,” he says, “you must engage Dragotha yourself. We must begin the ritual and have faith in the prophecy. The Banished Storm will be born. She will hold off the approaching forces. She will take Zadia’s place. But none of this will happen if Dragotha reaches us first.”

“I understand,” the elf says. She embraces Tylanthros. “I will never forget you. I will never forget your sacrifice. I’ll see you in another life.”

She turns and leaps into the air. As she does, she transforms into one of the most beautiful creatures they’ve ever seen in your lives: a radiant silver dragon. The dragon takes to the air and soars overhead, over Kyuss’s army, and into the swarm of dragons guarding Dragotha and his fell approach.

They are not yet materialized, but they see it happen. Horthomon and Arbelia and Sigaddad set down their burden of the crystal sarcophagus, the sarcophagus that would have held Zadia’s body throughout all time. They join hands and begin chanting. Beskawahn, Thadimar, and Sayren-Lei – the other Wild Watchers – join them. So do two others.

Tylanthros turns to a woman, Saellas. Saellas and her sisters hold a giant crate seemingly fashioned of lead. They cannot see within, yet they know it contains Dragotha’s phylactery. Tylanthros says, “Go now, Saellas. Take the phylactery to its cradle in Kongen-Thulnir. Work the magic we have agreed upon.”

Saellas says, “My sisters and I will never forget your sacrifice.”

Tylanthros says, “Nor will we forget yours.”

“Yes, you will,” she says. “You’d better. Or this is all for nothing.”

They smile. They embrace. Saellas touches her sisters and they vanish.

Tylanthros joins the chanting of his companions. Amidst the strange words of power, the Fountain grants the party understanding of several key lines.

“Four to give their flesh to stand our vigil.” Tylanthros and his three Wild Watcher companions begin to burn.

“Three to give their minds to contain the memories.” The three that carried the crystal sarcophagus are buffeted by winds that begin stripping the flesh from their heads.

“Two to give their hearts to seal the path.” The last two members of the Order of the Storm, Anwyn and Mellethon, gasp as their hearts turn into solid obsidian inside their chests.

“One to give her soul…to save our souls.”

It begins to rain. Instantly.

“One to give her soul…one to give her soul…”

Tylanthros continues the chant even as his flesh burns from his body. The others continue their gestures of power as they sacrifice everything they are, were, and ever will be to save the world.

And they wait, against hope, for the Daughter of the Storm to appear.

They are starting to materialize now, and through the power of the Fountain they know what happens next. Jane appears with her companions. They have one minute to hold off the ground assault of Kyuss’s forces while Lashonna the Silver holds off Dragotha. Somehow – at least, the last time this cycle completed – Jane succeeds. She helps her party as long as she can, and then before the expiration of a minute, she makes her way into the crystal sarcophagus. The ritual completes.

The spell takes hold.

Jane’s companions will vanish. All knowledge of Dragotha’s phylactery will pass out of existence. Dragotha retreats. Kyuss is pulled fully back into his prison. For now. The magic parting the Nyr Dyv ceases and the vast armies of the dead are torn to pieces in the resulting chaos. The Storm over the Nyr Dyv takes on its legendary power as its waters become infused with vast magnitude of Jane’s purpose-driven soul. Tilagos the demiplane springs into existence and the Library of Last Resort is born.

For Jane, then, a near-eternity begins as an elemental force – a formless, boundless, memory-less, humanity-less existence as a flowing source of power and energy with only the barest thread of what one would call sentience or intellect or choice.

She is – always was – the legendary storm at the heart of the Nyr Dyv.

She is – always was – infused within the waters of the inland lake-sea. She is – always was – the force of strength and power drawn on by all the nearby druids of the area – the Bronzewood Lodge, the Duskbreakers, the Pinehearts.

Time will pass. Meaningless to her. She’ll be nothing but a force of nature. She’ll exist to provide energy for magic spell and to protect the Library. That’s all. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Yet in time, things will begin to stir.

The worm-ridden dead will rise to terrifying strength in the chasms to her north. The worm-ridden dead will begin to rise in the hills to her south.

She will feel their wrongness and the part of her that was once human will ache to fight them.

But she’ll understand, somehow, that her duty is to simply exist apart from the world – that by doing so, she is fighting against them.

But she won’t remember why.

Or how.

There won’t be enough of her soul or intellect left to process such complicated thoughts.

And she’ll begin to grow worried. The locals will begin to notice that the Storm at the heart of the lake grows angrier and darker over time. They’ll come to call it “The Tempest” rather than the Storm.

The waters of the lake will become so tumultuous that only the bravest (or most reckless) of captains will dare to cross her.

And then her subtly growing awareness will be drawn to a family living in the south of her. A father and mother, both Druids, both of whom call upon her power daily. A father and mother with two little girls, Athena (the eldest) and little baby Jane, the sweetest little girls in existence.

Their life together is an unremarkable one, but it is a gloriously precious one. Each day watching them brings Jane’s awareness to a finer and finer point of appreciation for the miracle of a normal life. As the mother draws on her power to shape the willow tree in the front yard of their cottage into a fort for Athena to play in, Jane feels the opposite of what she feels as the hordes of undead to her north rake great holes of foulness and rot through the heart of the earth.

And then it will happen. Did happen. Has happened. They die. All of them. The whole family.

A Spawn of Kyuss ranging north from the swamps stumbles upon their cottage. And within moments, four beautiful, perfect, simple, normal, everyday, REMARKABLE lives will be snuffed out. The baby is ripped from the mother’s arms and hurled against the wall. Mother, father, and sister are turned into unnatural abominations and lurch out into the night.

While the baby lies crumpled in the corner, teetering between life and death, her consciousness winking out, Jane The Elemental Power Source will find herself filled with fury. Fury with this impossibly small (in the vast scheme of her awareness) yet impossibly profound act of wrongness. And she will find herself willing the child to live. To rise up. To fight. To LIVE.

Fury will pulse within her like the beating of a drum… and soon like the beating of a heart… and soon – as a sliver of her non-existent consciousness breaks from her whole and slides into the body of the baby human – she will find herself experiencing a sensation she had entirely forgotten for fifteen centuries… the cocoon of flesh. Her awareness of the lake, the storm, the rift, the swamp, OH NO the Island and the Seal! will begin to fade. Who will watch them now?… All that will began to fade.

She will somehow still be the power source, be the Storm, the Tempest, but she will also somehow partially be THERE. Inside the baby.

No, she will BE the baby…

And then the real confusion will set in… She’ll be found by wolves and the rest will proceed as it has, as it did, as it will, as it was always meant to proceed.

But that’s not now. Now is now. Now is the moment of the spell. And now the cycle will begin again, leading… who knows where…

They are taking solid form in the world now, and as they become REAL in this place and time, the Fountain gives them the gift of comprehension. This is The Choice that was made: one woman chose to sacrifice everything that made her human to become a force of power fighting a great imbalance in the world. She gave up everything that made her her to do the thing that needed doing. This spell and their choice are the source of Jane’s power: her power was born in war and pain and self-sacrifice – and her power hails directly from those who fought against Kyuss himself for centuries. She has been tied to Kyuss’s story since before she was “born.” Whatever that actually means in her context.

But, wait…

All this time travel causality has started a new question pulsing in their still-partially-shared mindspace: before this time traveling happened, how was it possible for Jane to be here?

And before all this time travelling, who exactly – what exactly – was Jane?

Yet no sooner is the thought born than the power of the Fountain makes it clear: once the time travel happened, the time travel had ALWAYS happened.

Events during the time travel… caused the events that led to the time travel… which in turn led to the events of the time travel… on and on in an infinity spiral, the snake eating itself, the griffon and its egg (which came first?).

The time travel happened, has always happened, always would have happened, that’s all the Fountain knows. And all the Fountain can do is bring Jane to witness AND take part in the moment where she herself appeared centuries before her birth to cause the events that would lead to her birth. The hows and whys are now irrelevant. Whether Jane was originally a woman, was always a woman… was originally an elemental power source infatuated with human kindness and suffering, was always an elemental power source… it doesn’t matter. Between the events of the day the Order of the Storm sacrificed itself to save the world and the day Jane left the Material Plane for the Library of the Last Resort, Jane is and was and always will have been both of those things. All of those things.

All that matters, should she step into the future that lies beyond the time travel is which identity she wants to claim: Nature Itself Fighting to Save Itself or Humanity Risking Everything to Save Nature.

But that’s a question for another day.

They materialize with an understanding of their choices. They will only be here for one minute. The Fountain brought them here to witness the source of Jane’s power. She can accept that knowledge, save the Order of the Storm from the approaching forces, and take her place in the crystal sarcophagus as she did before, complete the ritual, and create the conditions that lead to her existence as a boundless font of elemental power.


They are here now. They could conceivably do nothing. Stand back, watch the Order of the Storm go down, and watch Kyuss break into the world 1,500 years before she was ever born, will be born, will have been born…

The Fountain asks, What do you do?

They fight.

Long Fist summons Hyaeliotope as Riddle casts blessings of fervor on his companions. Scar-Eater points at an undead brute racing towards the group, and they all recognize it as Thrazdan the Destroyer, Knight of Kyuss, Tyrrell’s progenitor. Tyrrell chops off his own finger and Jane races to retrieve it and put her own ring of sustenance on it.

The party takes on the approaching horde in full force, sparing nothing. Heal spells from Riddle and Jane take down Thrazdan. Above, Lashonna the silver dragon paralyzes several chromatic dragons, sending them crashing to the ground. Riddle binds a sixty-foot-long serpent made of bones with binding winds and Jane sees a window in which to reach the sarcophagus and shut herself inside.

Jane lies down in the crystal sarcophagus and it seals around her. She immediately goes dormant, frozen in the identical position they saw her in when they discovered her on Tilagos Island before crossing through the obsidian portal.

The druids’ spell completes.

The two who gave their hearts die as the pieces of obsidian lodged within their chest expand into large flat portal stones and come to rest on the ground.

The three who gave their minds die as their skulls are torn full open by howling winds, their brains torn to infinitesimally small pieces and scattered into a cloud of mist all around the party.

The four who gave their flesh finally burn to death and from out of the purifying fires step the creatures they knew as Wild Watchers, halos of insects already starting to form around them.

Tylanthros cries out, “All terrors that might conceivably stand in Dragotha’s stead, all terrors out of time, all threats to the brief breath of peace I hope may fall, come with us!”

A maelstrom of blazing white and red light bursts forth from the obsidian portal stones and from all corners of the Material Plane, enormous creatures are pulled through space and into the demi-plane being born before their eyes. A titan. A primordial dragon. Mutant dinosaurs. Impossible gorillas. On and on and on.

And as the party’s link to this time and place winks out, they see it happen: Jane’s actual soul leaves her flesh and sinks into the earth, filling the water, filling the lake, filling the rain-lodged sky…

And then they vanish from this place and time races on, carrying them all with it.

All of them but Jane.

Days turn into weeks into months into years as time and space fly past their perception. They sense the chaos of their companions’ questions to the Fountain of Dreams, throbbing in the background like a deep ache, one idea rising above the others “What is the source of my power?”

Finally, you settle in one place, one time.

They are in a small farm house. Comfy. Cozy. It is dusk. A human woman sits alone on a chair, her eyes red and vacant, her brow furrowed, her hands clenched into fists, tears rolling down her cheeks. This is Sasha.

Through the open door to the next room, you see a young girl lying asleep in her own bed, unaware of the grief her mother is experiencing…has been experiencing since her husband took the fall that took his mind. The blow to his skull was horrific enough to crush through and puncture a part of his brain, but even more horribly – it was not quite not bad enough to give him the release of death. The husband sleeps in the other room, the one behind the closed door. He has not left the bed for eight months. He never will leave the bed again, because Sasha cannot afford to travel to a city and pay for the type of healing he would require. But still he lives because she cannot bring herself to end his life.

It is around twenty years ago. Sasha is spending her night as she spends all of her days and nights. Going through the motions, keeping the tears at bay when her daughter is awake, letting them flow when she sleeps. Maintaining the farm. Maintaining her husband. Maintaining. Persisting. But not really living.

And then the front door opens. In steps Sasha’s husband.




Sasha gasps. “Erik?” she whispers.

Erik closes the front door and removes his traveling cloak. He crosses to the daughter’s door and closes it. He peeks into the bedroom where he lies living and dying, smiles, and shuts the door again. He crosses to Sasha.


They are not yet there, but they see it happen. He kisses her. She submits, weeping.

Erik’s eyes were blue, but this Erik’s eyes are sickly neon green. They see this, but whether Sasha sees it is unknown. Irrelevant, in fact.

His eyes are green because he is not Erik. He is not even a man. He is not even a human. For a brief instant, through the power of the Fountain, they glimpse the true form of Mahuudril, the high priestess of the Tabernacle of Worms. A twelve foot long, pale, maggot-like monstrosity, coated in foul slime. Its head splits in three flaps to reveal a lamprey-toothed maw ringed with glowing green eyes like those of a fly. Six of its eight arms end in longsword-length scythe-like appendages, the other two end in sickly hands, mockeries of humanoid digits. Along its twelve-foot, pulsating, stinking, foul length are a dozen tentacles dripping with slime, ending with even more sickly fly-eyes. It is an avolakia. It can take any humanoid form and almost none can detect its true nature.

Mahuudril has been busy this past year. She knew the Red Death was coming and has been busy preparing.

After all, the work of the Wormlord is never done.

And the way must be paved for his return.

Thus it was that she created the Cult of the Ebon Triad all those years ago at Lashonna’s request. Humans are so easy to manipulate, especially fanatics like the followers of Hextor, Erythnul, and Vecna. And the cult – the fake cult, the useless cult, the perfect front – would be needed to engineer the destruction of the city of Cauldron, perched on that volcano’s edge. It would be the fulfillment of the third prophecy. The first, of course, is the arrival of the Red Death, and that’s what would get the work of centuries seriously launched.

Next year, plague will kill hundreds of thousands in the region.

Hundreds of thousands of corpses.

The beginning of the Wormlord’s army.

Lashonna sent the dragon Illthain to seed the worms throughout the region, ready to begin their march. The worms are the perfect transmitter of undeath, and the ultimate expression of Kyuss’s power, beauty, and majesty. Unlike zombification or other lesser – yet highly communicable forms of undeath – the worms keep their hosts’ natural talents intact. Strength, speed, cunning, patience, intelligence – all intact.

So, while Illthain is seeding worms, Mahuudril is seeding powerful host bodies throughout the region.

Her plan is simple. Has been simple the many hundreds of times she’s done it. She takes human form – male form – and impregnates women with the right bloodlines, hoping to create perfect specimens of powerful humanity to act as uberspawn when the Red Death comes and the worms rise.

Her half-human/half-aberration spawn will be human for all intents and purposes but will inherent (those that survive to term) Mahuudril’s strength, speed, agility, perception, and powers of stealth – making for perfect hosts for Kyuss’s worms. They will be able to camouflage themselves in most environments. Their endurance and speed and strength of Will will be far above those of the average human. They will be drawn to learn about aberrations and stalking and hunting and they’ll never know why. They will thrive in swamps and caves and never know why. Some will be drawn to melee weapons – those will favor multiple blades, never knowing that they’re aping their mother-father’s many raking claws. Some will be drawn to missile weapons, firing faster than the eye can follow, firing arrows at a rate it would seem would require six – or eight – hands to manage.

But all of that is beside the point. The point is what is happening now.

Through the power of the Fountain they know what happens next. Sasha embraces “Erik.” Sasha falls into his arms. He is here, that’s all that matters. This is what they do. This is what she wants. Why question it? Why deny it? Sasha turns off that piece of her brain that might give her pause and follows the path laid before her.

In 20 minutes, a child will be conceived. A boy. Strong, fast, stealthy, all-seeing, driven, drawn to the darkness and swamps and Underdark, a great hunter of powerful focus. His name will be Erik Korbin (called Junior by Sasha before she dies), though he’ll never know it. He’ll only know the name he took for himself: Archie Forrest.

In roughly a year, while he lies squalling in his crib, his mother and sister will die from the Red Death. And so, at long last, will the man his mother married – Erik Korbin – so will he finally move beyond the veil, claimed by the Red Death as well.

Since Archie is not here, the party understands that they will not materialize here and now. They are only here to witness. And as they witness, the Fountain gives them the gift of comprehension. This is The Choice that was made: one woman followed the path laid before her, however wrong it may have felt in the back of her mind, however much she might have – could have – questioned it, and chose to slip into a customary role in a time of terrible pressure and need, leading to the fulfillment of one of Kyuss’s high priestess’s plans for the world. This is the source of Archie’s power: his power was born in cunning, self-deception, and pain – and his power hails directly from the strategizing of one of Kyuss’s leading fulfillers of prophecy in the world. He has been tied to Kyuss’s story since before he was born.

They vanish from this place and time races on, carrying them all with it.

Time passes in a blur of speed this time. The time difference between their last destination and this one is small – miniscule in the scheme of millennia that they’ve been traveling. As they travel through time and space, they sense the chaos of their companions’ questions to the Fountain of Dreams, throbbing in the background like a deep ache, one idea rising above the others “What is the source of my power?”

Finally, they settle in one place, one time.

They see an open courtyard in a building built for literal giants. Doors are nearly 20 feet high. Steps are almost three feet high. Everything towers at a scale that makes them feel like insects. The city clings to the side of a gargantuan gorge, that monstrous tear in the flesh of the world known as the Great Rift Canyon. That miles-wide, miles-deep tear in the world created when the Rod of Law was sundered, all those thousands of years ago. They are not there yet, but soon they will be. The power of the Fountain is bringing them into being here, now. Then, there.

It is 20 years ago. It is the once-great city giant city of Kongen-Thulnir in the crumbling, waning days long past its glory. It is vast, but nearly empty. The society of Stone Giants – allies of the Order of the Storm in days of old – that lived and ruled here for centuries, guarding the phylactery of Dragotha, keeping it safe from the agents of Kyuss, those giants have long since died out. As generations and centuries passed, their mission of guarding the phylactery vault went from duty to order to tradition, and from tradition to faith and superstition. Then other giants came to Kongen-Thulnir, some on errands of peace, some to make war. Control of the city changed hands countless times. Wars and squabbling reduced the city to ruins, a shadow of its once-mighty glory. Yet through it all, the wards and mystical auras left behind by Saellas and her sisters persisted. Each new tribe of giants to claim Kongen-Thulnir quickly came to view the Citadel of Weeping Dragons as their responsibility. They knew not why. They knew not what rested within the inner vault of the citadel, yet they knew it was their duty to protect it.

But again: the glory that was Kongen-Thulnir is a thing of the past. Now it is a horror show of foul lesser giants, ogres, and ogre-kin. It is a place of savagery and physical power – not the beacon of knowledge and goodness and order it once was.

The giants of Kongen-Thulnir, specifically in the Kharhakhan tribe (the Riftlords), are at a turning point. Their king, the cloud giant Achaime Silvereye, is ill. Has been ill for decades. With Silvereye on his deathbed, the Riftlords are breaking down into subtribes, each with their own petty lord, each with their own agenda.

The Khargak-dwergun tribe (the Rift Crawlers) is in disarray. Charlgar’s attempted coup nearly cost him his life and he and his followers are nursing their wounds, fading in prominence as fast as they rose.

The Tiamikal Nul-Shada tribe has remained apart from the power struggles in the city. Their duty is to guard the Citadel of Weeping Dragons, and to their duty they remain constant. In their own way. Constant but apart.

Back to the courtyard. One of the Riftlord subtribes is gathered en masse: giants of all shapes and sizes, and many, many ogres. An upstart hill giant/ogre crossbreed named Turrok has challenged “ Kroth the Learned” for chieftainship. Before today, the ways of the Stone Giants were still strong in the tribe – thanks to the teachings of Kroth the Learned – and so murder was not a part of the transfer of power. Duels, yes. Displays of power, yes. Savage mutilations, sometimes yes. But never murder. The Stone Giants taught that murder was an abomination against the natural order. But the Stone Giants are long gone now. The dwindling numbers of the tribe had made murder seem ill-advised… but such logic requires higher brain function… and the giants of this subtribe are losing such function.

They are not yet materialized, but they see it happen. Turrok battles Kroth the Learned for control of the tribe. The fight is brutal. The rage of the watching crowd is awe-inspiring. Kroth has the upper hand for much of the fight, then a turned ankle on a crumbling flagstone leads to a sudden sea change.

Kroth goes down.

Turrok rises above him. This is the moment when victory would be claimed. If the ways of the Stone Giants held, Turrok would take an ear or a finger and Kroth the Learned would acknowledge defeat before the entire tribe.

But the bloodlust of the crowd is palpable.

And the hunger for power and might and cruelty is strong in Turrok.

They are not there yet, but they see it happen. Turrok raises his axe. He is going to behead the helpless Kroth. They see a literal monster, a mountain of towering muscle and physical strength set aside the teachings he once knew in his heart to be true, craving the easy answer, craving the rush of power…they see this grotesque horror make the decision to set his entire tribe, his family, his party, down one path, a dark path… when he could have chosen differently.

They are starting to materialize now, and through the power of the Fountain they know what happens next. The axe falls. Kroth the Learned’s head rolls. The crowd goes wild. And all of Kroth’s choices for two decades will come to an end.

Tomorrow, the hunting parties that normally tackled the more deadly but less sentient prey of the Great Rift, would take a different path…they would turn for the first time to hunting the far easier prey of the human villages to the south. Hunting for flesh. Flesh to ravage and flesh to consume. One particular raid will lead to Long Fist’s inception – for he is, after all, the son of Turrok – and to the death and rape and torture of dozens of innocents. Hundreds, over time.

They are taking solid form in the world now, and as they become REAL in this place and time, the Fountain gives them the gift of comprehension. This is The Choice that was made: one man chose the easy display of strength and might over the life of another soul lying helpless and defeated at his feet. Had he chosen otherwise, Kroth would have lived and the raid that gave birth to Long Fist would not have happened, for Kroth’s teachings were powerful…but only as long as he lived to espouse them. This is the source of Long Fist’s power: his power was born in murder, brutality, and pain – and his power hails directly from those who guarded the secret power of Kyuss’s greatest general, although they never knew it. Long Fist has been tied to Kyuss’s story since before he was born.

They materialize with an understanding of their choices. They will only be here for a moment. The Fountain brought them here to witness the source of Long Fist’s power. Accept that knowledge, do nothing, and move on.


They are here now. They could intervene, step forward and stop the swing of the axe blade. Save Kroth the Learned’s life and break the cycle of savagery and violence threatening to consume the Riftlords. Kroth is no saint, but at the moment Kroth is helpless and about to beg for mercy. They could save his life, and save the lives of all who would go on to die in this village and elsewhere…

And erase Long Fist’s entire existence from the pages of history – never to live, never to play his part in stopping Kyuss’s plans in the future, never to use his powers against Kyuss, never to play his part in saving the world.

The Fountain asks, What do you do?

Long Fist turns to the group and say, “I can’t join you anymore. I don’t know how to say this, but…I remember the time at the Bronzewood Lodge, and after – the world felt so small, just focused on staying alive.

“Four months ago, I joined you all, hoping to be a champion for Good. Make a difference. But too long in this campaign have I chosen the small evil over the greater good. Sometimes the greater evil.

“That has never felt right to me.

“I blamed you, all of you, as an influence on who I was becoming. You and the harshness of the world.

“But it was my choice. And now, my responsibility.

“With you I have succeeded as a force of strength and power in the fight against evil. But I have failed utterly in life as a source of inspiration in the fight for goodness.

“A world that survives filled with suffering and indifference is not a world for me.Goodness means saving the world by small acts of mercy and salvation – not just big acts of destruction. Given the option to protect the innocent souls in Brier Town, and all those who have suffered and died because of me, at the cost of my own existence, well, I see the opportunity to do something right.

“I asked you all on my birthday what you fight for. Maybe it’s arrogant of me to believe this, but, I hope you will remember me, though I don’t know if that’s even possible. Mostly, I hope that you will come to believe that you are fighting for actual people, actual lives, actual moments and relationships instead of an abstract world.

“I wish to spare these lives. And. I wish to save your souls.

“Riddle, I know that by dying in the mines when I did, I robbed you of the only chance to return your mother to life. I suspect you’ve long wondered why I should live while she had to die – whether it was worth it or not. Believe me, I have wondered the same thing. But the fact is: her life was no more or less valuable than mine. I see that now, somehow. So, freely and with love, I can now return the gift of life to you that you so bravely gave to me.

“And, all of you, I implore you – let Jane LEAD you.

And with that, Long Fist steps forward and into the path of the axe. His mere presence and the outlandish impossibility of it is enough to bring the bloodrage of the proceedings to a halt. Everyone in the courtyard simply stares for a moment. And when that moment passes, and Kroth wasn’t killed, time is instantly rewritten. Long Fist ceases to exist. He ceases to ever have existed. The world begins rewriting itself around his absence and the power of the Fountain drags the rest of you forward in time. The party will remember Long Fist, but only because they visited, for a brief 19 or 20 years, the dimension in which he had existed. But that dimension, that universe is no more.

With a lurching sense of disorientation, they find themselves standing back on Tilagos Island. The normal Tilagos Island, not the demi-plane. The demi-plane is no more. The obsidian disc is gone. But the crystal sarcophagus is there. Inside, Jane’s body lays just as they last saw it. Then suddenly it breathes. And as it does they can tell that Time is not quite back in phase for them. It’s running super-slow. Starting to speed up, they sense. But still super-slow. Jane’s soulless body takes its first breath in 1,500 years and as it does, the storm surrounding Tilagos Island instantly ceases to be. Like a switch thrown, one instant it’s on and the next it’s off.

With the storm gone, they see the sky. It is day, yet the sky is black, roiling with green clouds centered to the north, where the city of Alhaster lies. The clouds roil in slow motion, though, adding to the eeriness of the sight.

As they slide back into reality, into their own separate bodies, and as the power of the Fountain leaves them, they have one last lingering sensation of awareness brought on by the power of the Fountain. As its power is fading from them…its power is actually fading, period. The magic that created the Fountain is dying out and the secrets and threats it contained are slipping out. Inside dusty, forgotten tomes in massive libraries, pieces of lore are materializing where they never had been before. Buried in chests, amongst wreckage at the bottom of the sea, in sealed corner stones at the foundations of old houses…inside log books, diaries, ledgers, notes, scrawlings…information is materializing. Nowhere obvious. Nowhere immediately noticeable. And no one knows it’s happening. (Well, a few know it’s happening.) But it is happening. All the knowledge that had disappeared from existence is slowly returning and can now be found again. Perhaps. With the right motivation and a great deal of luck. But it’s all coming back here. And over the next centuries, well into whatever Age next follows, it will start to reemerge. Unless, of course, all of the prophecies are right and the next Age is the Age of Worms. In which case, everyone’s fucked anyways.

And thanks to the power of the Fountain, they understand that while they are the only holders of the information they were just given…for now…that their advantage will be short-lived. Some of their foes, foes such as Dragotha himself, are among the longest-lived (or unlived) beings in all existence, and easily among the most powerful beings on the Material Plane. Dragotha has bent his entire formidable powers to finding his phylactery for centuries. He will sense a change and he will learn quickly. And he will act quickly.


Despite what seemed would be happening, Time is not speeding up yet. But something is going on. They themselves are speeding up, but the world around them seems to be slowing to a near halt. The clouds almost freeze in their angry roil overhead. The massive waves crashing down on the shoreline are suspended in mid-air, cascading flashes of spray glinting green in the still, frozen air.

They barely have time to process that this has happened before a perfect circle nearly 30ft. in diameter opens in the air a hundred feet overhead. Beyond, in stark contrast to the horrific black and green sky, through the portal they see an endless expanse of sun-dappled grassland – the Blessed Fields of Elysium. And with a nearly eye-destroying intensity of light, the honest-to-fucking-goodness sun in humanoid form comes flying through the portal.

They see an old human man in robes of white, with gleaming golden hair and beard. He rides a breaktakingly beautiful creature like a hooved lion with a unicorn’s horn. Its mane seems to be made of living flame. Its eyes burn with fierce intelligence and a sense of driving kindness.

Pelor lands. He dismounts Star Thought, his ki-rin companion. He speaks. His voice vibrates within them to the frequency of the universe and they are driven face down. They cannot help it.

“HOW AM I HERE?” he asks. They can tell it is a rhetorical question because they feel no compulsion to speak. They know that if he did expect an answer to his question, they would fall over themselves and each other to answer him. Love him, hate him, acknowledge him, or not…He is before them and they now know what it means to stand (or lie prostrate) before a god. While their bodies obey, their brains catalogue this experience as something they’ll never forget. The power of gods is beyond anything their adolescent minds could ever have comprehended. And for certain of them…the more imaginative…they grasp hold of a faint truth: there is a reason the gods (well, especially Greater Gods like Pelor) rarely appear in person outside of their Realms, why they have aspects and avatars to send among the mortals… the fact is, the world itself can barely contain the power of one Greater God simply standing on the earth in a state of relative placidity. The thought of Gods of this magnitude duking it out over some slight or disagreement… well, the thought leads to the certainty of the end of the world.

But that’s a tangent. The Sun God just spoke to them. Attention must be paid. Their minds snap back.




















Pelor mounts Star Thought and flies through the portal to Elysium. The portal closes and the unbelievable weight of the godly presence is lifted from the party. And at the same instant, Time kicks back in and they are in the raging hellscape of Tilagos Island.

Jane emerges from her sarcophagus.

The handy haversack is no longer in Long Fists’s possession because Long Fist never existed. Riddle carries it. He both knows that he never had, but also that he always had carried it.

They’re just standing there for a moment trying to wrap their minds around everything that they’ve just learned and experienced when someone else comes swooping out of the sky. It’s Archie – looking significantly older – and he’s riding on the back of a mother-fuckin’ golden GRIFFON companion! “Tenser thought it would be today,” he says. “I guess he was right.”

There is much to catch up on, which they do so over the course of a long day and night. In brief, here’s what they learn:

Archie has absolutely no knowledge that Long Fist ever existed and that all has to be explained to him. Over the course of the night of storytelling and swapping, they are able to pinpoint what’s different in their memories of the campaign.

First of all, Long Fist was not there to take down the Ebon Aspect in the Dourstone Mine at the moment he did. The enlarged, enraged Aspect broke free from the maze and made it to the surface, where many dozen more people died before the party could drop the thing. Sad, but not irrecoverable.

Second: more sad – tragic, in fact – is what happened at the end of the Champions Games. Without Long Fist to nearly singlehandedly drop the Ulgurstasa with the speed with which he did so, the creature was able to fulfill its purpose. Though the creature is, of course, powerful as a combatant, its true danger lies as an undead manufacturing engine. Without Long Fist’s smiting powers, and given the distraction of Loris Raknian and his goon squad, the Ulgurstasa made it to Auric and consumed him. A blast of negative energy exploded through the arena. The party survived, and some selected others did, but 10,000 commoners were instantly killed and turned into ravenous flesh-eating wights. The Ulgurstasa vomited up its cargo of dragon skeletons and other horrors and soon all was chaos. The wights began killing and each person they took down rose instantly as a wight as well. The party was forced to flee the arena, flee the city entirely. What followed was a disaster unlike any the world has seen before, one which the Circle of Eight is still trying to deal withto this day.

Many other encounters went differently – including the clash with the Marquis of the River, who escaped and still exists having sworn to end your party – but those were the largest and darkest of the tales to relate.

On the lighter side, it is true that Riddle’s mother still lives. Archie checks in on her from time to time, knowing that Riddle would wish him to do so, and he makes sure that she and her partner are alive and well.

After catching up on those things, Archie shares what happened to him:

First of all, the current date: it is Starday, the 8th of Reaping (high summer, though they’d never be able to tell from the perpetually overcast sky), Common Year 601. Almost five-and-a-half years since you went to Tilagos.

After he was banished, Archie appeared on an entirely different continent, high up in the mountains over a city populated by the yuan-ti snake people. He did not speak the language, and was very much unwelcome there, and had to begin what was a year-long trek to return back to Nyr Dyv. Cross-country rangery treks, stowing aboard some ships, buying passage on others. It was epic beyond belief and someday he’ll catch you up on the details of all that transpired.

He made his way back to Tenser, who was still wrapped up in the aftermath of the Champion’s Games, but was able to do some communing with extraplanar entities and learned that it was likely that the party would return, but the when of that was distant and unknown.

For a couple of years or so, Archie kept a vigil at Tilagos Island, hoping to be there when the party returned, or to stop Darl from returning if he could. During those years, he encountered his new griffon companion. The creature was circling overhead during one particular week, and caught his eye. He lured it down, learned to ride it, learned to fire effectively from his back, and established a bond with it. They’re good buds now. Not that it speaks, of course. But it seems almost as though it understands him and with all the time they’ve spent alone together, Archie’s grown accustomed to talking to it.

From time to time, they would head for the mainland to hunt for food and stock up on provisions. As he visited nearby communities, he discovered that the golden griffon was well known in the area. For over a decade, it had been fighting off rampaging giants and ogres, taking down smaller dragons, and fighting off the surging parties of undead that had been wandering the area in greater and greater frequency. Simply riding in on the griffon’s back made Archie an instant celebrity. And he’d marvel at how all the children of the region would be allowed to walk right up to it, pet it, tug on his feathers and fur, all without any consequence from the powerful, dangerous creature. There were all sorts of legends about the beast – how it had been touched by holy power, that it was smarter than other griffons, and it seemed driven by some purpose. In time, he came to learn that the people of the area had given it a name: “Longclaw, the Golden Griffon of Pelor.”

Time marched on. Eventually, Tenser was able to determine that the party’s return was still several years distant, so Archie decided to take Longclaw and start scouting and preparing for their return. Here’s what he knows:

The city of Alhaster is the most cheerfully, pleasantly, smiles-plastered-to-its-citizens’-faces-ly terrifying bleak place. The borders have been closed for a year or so, but Archie and his pal have been able to sneak in and out from time to time. Smiling Prince Zeech began pressing slaves into labor to build a giant structure next to his palace atop his hill overlooking the city. At first it seemed innocuous (despite the slaves dying by the dozens every week) but eventually it became clear – to Archie at least, thanks to his visions of the past – that Zeech was building a near-exact replica of the giant ziggurat of Kuluth-Mar, the structure that helped power Kyuss’s ascension to godhood. All that’s missing is the giant monolith that topped it – but there’s even a place for that.

Zeech’s “Blessed Angels” as they’re called – his army of lady angels – are not holy creatures. Archie has determined that they are actually Erinyes devils, bound to Zeech’s service by means unknown.

Archie and Longclaw scouted the area of the Great Rift Canyon rumored to be where Dragotha makes his lair – a place called the Wormcrawl Fissure. He’s been able to thoroughly map out the area and knows its major power figures: an ancient ulgurstasa sorcerer known as some sort of prophet of Kyuss, a fallen Lillend bard hiding out and making freaky art, and a disturbing lich wizard fabled for the creation of all sorts of monsters like the owlbear, mimic, rust monster, and more. But he has not dared to descend into the stinking pit called Kyuss’s Maw, where something called the Tabernacle of Worms is supposed to exist, and where Dragotha is supposed to lair.

On his first visit to the Wormcrawl Fissure, Archie was struck with intense, unexplained visions of a stately-looking man that (after talking with Tenser) he was able to identify as the long-missing Balakarde, Tenser’s friend who became obsessed with Kyuss nearly eight years ago, who visited the ruins of Kuluth-Mar and then disappeared into the Great Rift Canyon shortly thereafter. Archie suspects that Balakarde’s ghost may haunt the Wormcrawl Fissure, and may even be a source of aid to the party if a more reliable means of communing with his spirit is discovered. Every time Archie felt that presence in his mind, he began feeling PULLS towards the Apostle Caves, the Lillend’s home, and the Lich’s laboratory.

When the topic of Kongen-Thulnir is broached, Archie is able to identify exactly where that is and an overview of the ruined city crawling with a dying civilization of giants.

Then finally Tenser indicated this would be the day the party would return and here he came.

Session Sixty-One
In Which We Do That Thing We Are Never, Ever, Ever, EVER Supposed to Do, Suffer Literally No Consequences For it, and STILL Get Jacked by a Technicality

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (WhatEVER)

After healing and discussing how scant their resources are, the party identifies the likeliest site of the death of the Roc King: a mountain peak under constant assault by lightning bolts. Because, of course.

Due to severely limited time and resources, the party decides it’s best if Jane and Riddle fly to the peak to complete the last trial while Tyrrell, Long Fist, and Scar-Eater go retrieve Krathanos’ Belt from its hiding place. So you know, the party is going to…divide. Separate. Fragment. Rive. Tear asunder. Or, as they say: split.

First they load Jane up with every personality booster they have and she uses her Pearl of Power to recall the failed dominate animal from earlier. Riddle takes Tyrrell’s scroll of raise dead, casts protection from electricity, communal on himself and Jane, and the party goes their separate ways.

Jane, as Athena, flies Riddle to the top of an insanely high peak. They are struck by lightning no less than four times. At around ten thousand feet up they spot the corpse of the enormous bird beast and they fly down to inspect it. They see massive areas of bludgeoning damage as if it had been repeatedly crushed by boulders. “_Clashing of rocks_,” Riddle says, shaking his head.

But there isn’t time to mourn as lightning continues striking them. Jane shifts to her air elemental Tempest form while Riddle uses the scroll to raise the Roc King. There is an deep rumble as its enormous body trembles and shakes, reviving in the midst of the scream of the death throw agony that Darl and company wrought upon it. Riddle heals it and she attempts to communicate with it, but she’s…well, not great at this. Riddle attempts to help her with alter fortune but the best she can manage is to keep it in a state of non-aggression. It obviously wants to fly away immediately and they cannot allow that, so she uses dominate animal, using the connection between them to project an image of it remaining still while she pulls a feather from its body. It crouches, awkwardly, but without rebellion, and allows her to take the feather. She needs two attempts, but gets it. The final trial is complete.

It is late in the evening on Tilagos when the party reunites, but at least they are able to gather without any further incidents or encounters. It is about an hour from midnight when they return through the flat vale where the obsidian portal originally deposited them. Standing under the incredibly intense and vibrant light of the star, the four haloed humanoids who greeted them await their return. All bear banners of flame, clouds, parched earth, and oceans.

Tylanthros steps forward again. “The Fountain of Dreams is linked to all things in Last Resort. Earth, trees, clouds, my life, and my brothers’ lives. If the waters are consumed, the Order’s rights shall be revoked and the creatures imprisoned here will be freed to the Material Plane. Is this what you want?”

The party – these five kids, wielders of god-like powers burdened with the emotional maturity of the teenagers that they are – all look to each other, uncertain. Time and again have they chosen the path that seemed the most righteous only to find they have unwittingly unleashed terror and bloodshed upon the world. Time and again have they followed their hearts only to learn that all roads lead to destruction, the question is, whose?

In the silence Tylanthros reviews the trials these children have completed and asks again if they wish to drink from the Fountain of Dreams.

And Tyrrell buys them some time.

He asks about Kyuss, startling the brothers. “He almost broke fully free from his prison in our time, and in order to help lock him back away we stole…what did we steal? There was a general. There was a dragon, we took something important to distract it from the war at hand but what happened after we…what happened after we…we do not know.”

Tyrrell asks how his finger got on this island for centuries, but they cannot say. “Our vigil has lasted fifteen years. Nineteen years ago…something changes. There was an active force at work in the water beneath…and it stopped paying attention. It stopped paying attention.”

These guys are not entirely…there, as it were. Tyrrell asks, “Have we met before?” but the brothers cannot answer and seem troubled by the questions.

Jane asks what happened to the rest of the Order of the Storm. Tylanthros reports that there were ten involved in the binding, but not all survived the spell. “Our bodies survived,” he notes, cryptically.

“When Kyuss was first imprisoned,” he says, “it was the elves. When he almost broke free again we worked with…others…others we cannot remember.”

Tyrrell asks, “If we don’t drink the waters, and we just go home, what happens to you guys?” Tylanthros explains that he and his brothers must remain until the death of this plane. He presumes they would die, but when Jane asks if that is what they want, he claims they don’t remember.

“What is in the Library?” Riddle asks.

“Everything secret that no one still living knows,” Tylanthros replies. One of the brothers states that he hopes we would use the knowledge gained there against Kyuss. Another, called Sayren-Lei, disagrees. He does not believe the party deserves to drink for allowing the Roc King to die at the hands of Darl and friends.

Tired and frustrated, Jane snaps back, “The Roc King lives.”

Sayren-Lei is not satisfied. He formally contests the party’s accomplishments and demands trial by blood to prove their worthiness. The others are clearly surprised, but confirm that it is his right to do so. Riddle proceeds to commune with his dieties to ask if the party should drink the waters or try to find another way to preserve the secrets of the Library. His chorus answers, in no uncertain terms: _”The Servant of Vecna is not gone forever. He will return. The secrets will be his, unless they are prevents. Drinks the waters if you would have them for yourself.”

Trial by blood it is.

But before that happens, Tyrrell suggests to the others that Sayren-Lei might be stalling so the servant of Vecna can return and claim the Library for himself. Tylanthros seems saddened by the suggestion by not swayed. “We do not exist in the way that you think. We exist only as the agenda we had when we gave our flesh to the spell. We believe anyone with a different agenda would surely have died in the trying to sacrifice themselves.

Riddle steps up to try to reason with Sayren-Lei that by denying himself and his friends he is serving Vecna. Jane, still spent and desperate to avoid another fight, pleads with the others to convince Sayren-Lei to help them end their service, but they do not seem to understand how to process that and without further ado, Jane shifts into her fire elemental form and prepares for battle.

Tyrrell gives bargaining one last shot and at least gets the other three discussing their options, but ultimately, it will be trial by blood.

Of course.

Riddle steps up and shakes all of their hands, gaining at least six pieces of information about their strengths and weaknesses through touching them. He hands the Rod of Thunder and Lightning to Tyrrell and says, “You’ll need this,” then turns to the others. “Long Fist and Scar-Eater, you’re the strongest, you need to hold him.

With that, he draws a scroll and begins to read.

Tyrrell vanishes in a swarm of shadowy duplicates but Sayren-Lei still appears able to see him. And speaking of swarms, suddenly hundreds of thousands of insects manifest all around him, and then, after a causal stoneskinning of himself, hundreds of thousands of more centipedes manifest around the party.

Long Fist is immediately poisoned by the horrible things but he attempts to do as Riddle instructed anyway, but he just can’t seem to get a hold of Sayren-Lei. Riddle is nauseated by the creatures and all he can manage to do is move out of the swarm. Scar-Eater becomes nauseated and can only move about ten feet. Jane, immune to poison but not to hundreds of thousands of tiny bites sends a fire snake through the insects but can’t penetrate Sayren-Lei’s magical resistance.

Tyrrell is forced to clear the swarm as well, leaving only Long Fist as a target for Sayren-Lei’s spear. The half-ogre absorbs three attacks and takes a lot of electrical damage. Riddle manages to complete the reading of his anti-magic field scroll and moves adjacent to Sayren-Lei. And now everyone can move in and attack, except Jane, who fires a pathetic volley of sling shots before remembering that she can transform into something scary outside the field and then move in. Sayren-Lei is not totally useless without his swarms and stony skin, but he is much more vulnerable and terrifically outnumbered. Once Scar-Eater is able to get him prone and Tyrrell is able to start bleeding him, it’s only a matter of time before Sayren-Lei yields to the superior force, and the trial is answered in the party’s favor.

“So then,” Tylanthros asks. “Will you drink from the fountain now?”

Session Sixty
In Which There is a Jurassic Park Interlude Before the Real Terror Begins

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (AFAIFK, seriously, still.)

With the party at least somewhat restored after the last bit of chaos, Riddle performs some divinations and sendings to Archie in order to gain some information and guidance on their next steps. It is not long before they piece together that every time someone travels to and from this place to the Material Plane, time accelerates on Tilagos. Which means Archie will age exponentially the longer the party remains.

It is currently morning, and once it is determined that the party will continue to try to complete the trials, they need to act fast. Jane casts find the path to the Thorn Vale and they rush off in that direction, knowing they will arrive fatigued, but unwilling to spend one more second longer in this place than necessary.

The island, of course, has other plans.

They are still about two hours from the Vale when they stumbled into a tyrannosaurus hunting ground. They spot the eighty-foot-long dinosaur slightly before it spots them. Jane acts quickly, beginning to cast dominate animal, but it does also, biting Long Fist and snatching him up in its giant maw. Long Fist desperately attempts to heal himself and then punch the tyrannosaur in the face. Tyrrell turns himself invisible and uses his lightning sword to fly up sixty feet in the air. Scar-Eater moves closer, channels scorching ray into his flail and trips the great beast, dodging its attacks and walloping it with acres of damage before turning invisible himself. Riddle does his best to aid Long Fist in escaping the tyrannosaur’s mouth, but with no luck.

Jane completes casting but the spell fizzles worthlessly and she shifts to her Bast tiger form, and misses with her bite as well. Meanwhile the dinosaur swallows Long Fist.

Tyrrell attacks from the sky and the animal begins bleeding profusely. Scar-Eater unloads everything he has, pounding it for hit after hit and scorching ray after ray until it does. They hastily cut Long Fist from the tyrannosaur’s stomach and revive him.

Two hours later they have made their way through the high rugged hills to a horrifyingly steep valley filled with an underbrush of thorns like iron swords. Across the valley, they see a gigantic cave mouth spilling huge plumes of thick black smoke. “More like steam than smoke,” Jane says grimly. “Probably more like an underground body of water heated by…magma. It’s like…ashy steam.” Mmmm!

There is lots of healing and Riddle casts fly on himself, Long Fist, and Scar-Eater, then shunts all of the steam away from them for eighty feet as they approach the lop of the cave. There is a giant gaping pit in the middle of the cave. Tyrrell stealthily scouts ahead and reports back a second pit deeper into the cave. They move ahead very slowly and carefully and aren’t more than sixty feet in when it becomes clear to Jane that there is something enormous moving on the far side of steam. She is about to shift from her Athena eagle form to her Tempest Fire form when an enormous roar from within the cave accompanies a humongous jetting plume of liquid magma, but she and Scar-Eater can’t avoid the brunt of it. Long Fist manages to avoid some but all of them watch in horror as the lava dissolves and warps the stone around them.

The Thorn Vale Terror moves through the air with eerie silence considering it is about one-hundred-and-twenty feet long and has earth and stone tumbling from its hide. It is all talons and trident tails and, well…terror. It bites at Scar-Eater but Jane sacrifices one of her prepared spell to change the fate of the previous moment. Riddle casts a communal protection from fire on everyone, followed by a quickened cold strike, making it very, very angry. Long Fist smites it, missing with one blow but solidly landing a second. Tyrrell turns invisible and tries to move but it becomes painfully obvious it can still see him when it swipes at him and infects him with a hideous flame poison.

Jane reverts to human form, gets out of the way and uses her prayer beads to boost her spellcasting power. Scar-Eater pelts it with a ray of exhaustion, seriously draining its battle prowess. It lashes out at Long Fist and Tyrrell but is too exhausted to aim well. Until of course Riddle flies overhead and tries to attack it with the Blade of Bitter Winds, when it aims perfectly and infects Riddle with the flame poison as well. Riddle hits, but it resists being dazed, which is really just too bad.

Long Fist heals himself and Tyrrell but draws an attack and becomes infected. Tyrrell’s blood fights off more damage, for now, feints and tumbles closer. Jane hits it with an ice storm, and Scar-Eater follows that with an enervation.

It seems to heal itself some before biting Riddle and missing Long First and Tyrrell with other attacks. Riddle responds by shrugging off the effects of the poison entirely and bloodying the Terror with the Blade of Bitter Winds. Long Fist follows suit and pummels it with his fists, and Tyrrell finishes it off with one devastating blow.

The party focusing on helping Tyrrell fight off the poison before looting the dead bodies in the cave and formulating a plan to finish the trials – today.

Session Fifty-Nine
In Which the Party Comes Face to Face with the Hand of Evil, and Meets its Final Encounter with an Old Foe

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (AFAIFK)

No one sooner has Darl teleported away and the party moved on to figuring out their next move, when the horrible jerk returns with an enormous force swarming out against our tired heroes. Darl, the tiefling, and the Faceless One stand before a small army of soldiers and wizards in black. “Leave this place,” Darl says, “or be destroyed.”

At the point the party can only sigh.

“Will you do this?” he presses.

Riddle turns to Jane and asks, “Will we?”

“We didn’t come here to leave this place,” she growls in return.

“Can’t blame a girl for trying,” Darl says with exasperation. “Very well. I have three pieces of information that the six of you would literally kill to have. It’s clear to me you don’t even know what you’re doing here. It’s equally clear that you don’t know anything. I have the upper hand because I know what the question is. ‘What is the Library’, ‘What is the Question we’re seeking to Answer’, and ‘What is the Date on the Material Plane.’ Choose one and I will answer.

Riddle’s brows knit in consternation but he does not believe there is any attempt being made to deceive the party. However it’s clear that both the tiefling and the Faceless One are surprised that Darl is offering any information at all.

And then, as if a spell were wearing off, fifteen archers appear out of nowhere, arrows knocked and ready to fire. One guess which side they are on.

“What is the Question you are seeking to Answer,” Riddle says. The archers are negligible, in fact most of the additional forces are. They are merely an effort to intimidate the party into conceding.

Darl’s face floods with conviction. “I have spent my entire life seeking the most potent and impactful secret that the world does not know. The question is, “Where is the Phylactery of Dragotha located? Whoever control that? Controls perhaps the most powerful being in existence.”

Riddle looks at Jane. Jane nods. The fight begins.

Without hesitation, Archie pelts Darl with four arrows, then says, “Just so you know, I was up for leaving.”

The Faceless One casts a spell and disappears, and then several things appear out of nowhere: huge fire elemental, a slimy demon, and three ants the size of ponies. The elemental pounds on Archie, setting him aflame, while the slimy demon turns on Jane. The ants attack Long Fist and Riddle. There is the sound a more spellcasting above the fray and Riddle disappears. The tiefling moves in a grapples the fiery Archie as the archers loose their arrows, scoring a couple of hits on Scar-Eater but entirely missing everyone else. Long Fist moves in on Darl, pummeling with his fist and landing blow after blow, but in the middle of it all, Darl is instantly healed in a burst of light. All fifteen wizards fire acid arrows on Long Fist, landing more than is strictly comfortable. Darl ignores the half ogre completely and turns his focus on Archie, who, still aflame, is immediately banished back to the Material Plane.

Things ain’t going so well.

Tyrrell moves to flank the slimy demon and leaves him bleeding, weakened, and very confused by the eight Tyrrells that suddenly appear adjacent to him. Jane fires ice spears on the fire elemental and then transforms into a towering fire elemental herself. She slams into the tiefling that was, up until a moment earlier, grappling the lost archer.

Thirty swordsmen swarm into to defend Darl, but all they manage to do is get in the way. Scar-Eater swiftly flies right over them to close with the vile priest. All of the ants try to snipe him but fail. Scar-Eater brings his flail down on his foe’s face, knocking Darl prone, though not managing to land much damage. Scar-Eater is grinning down on the falling priest when an awful black ray shoots down into him from out of nowhere, draining Scar-Eater terribly, and preparing him for a second freezing ray from above, sapping his strength. The fire elemental and the ants all turn their attention on Long Fist and the slimy demon and tiefling flank Jane in her fiery Tempest form. The archers all miss their targets again and Long Fist manages to chug a potion of resist fire and heal himself enough to stay in the fray. The wizards turn their acid arrows on Tyrrell but are mostly thwarted by the alternate Tyrrell images.

In the meantime, Riddle and Archie remain nowhere to be found.

From the ground, Darl attempts to banish Scar-Eater but fails. He heals himself completely, again, but remains on the ground. Tyrrell finishes off the slimy demon and turns invisible. Tempest-Jane slams the monk around a few times, shifts back to human form and sends a mighty fire snake to cut a destructive swath through the swordsmen. The remainders close in around Long Fist and Scar-Eater, valiantly raining down their ineffectual blows. Scar-Eater continues pounding Darl with his blade of blooded flail.

Another blast from above targets Tyrrell this time, but the savvy rogue manages to shrug off whatever was supposed to happen. The ants swing pointlessly at Long Fist and the fire elemental and the monk do their darndest to destroy Jane, but it’s an arrow from one of the archers that bring her down. The wizards pelt Long Fist with more acid arrows. Darl attempts to cast a spell from the ground and ignores the damage of Scar-Eater’s opportunistic attack, loosing Mordenkainen’s Disjunction on Long First, Tyrrell and Jane, threatening every spell affecting them, and every magic item in their possession. Pressing on, Tyrrell attacks the monk and creates eight more dopplegangers of himself. Jane, on the brink of death, summons of swirling sirocco at the place where she believes the Faceless One’s spells have been coming from. A satisfying scream answers her question and she can tell where he lands. She quickly cures herself and Long Fist and returns to her fire Tempest form.

Scar-Eater turns himself invisible and applies a dose of drow poison to his flail, giving Darl the opportunity to touch him with the Hand of Vecna itself. Scar-Eater shudders with cold and can feel the Hand sucking some of his mental acuity into itself and Darl.

Then everything goes green. A roiling bank of poisonous fog fills the battlefield, destroying all of the minions brought by these foes and harming Long Fist, Tyrrell, and, notably, the tiefling monk, who bleeds out a slim moment later. The archers struggle to find targets within the fog, and all fire upon Long Fist when he stumbles out of it to lunge at Darl.

Riddle reappears in the middle of the poisonous fog, and swiftly blasts himself directly upward, though not before breathing in the foul air. He uses control winds to move the cloudkill into the sirocco. The Faceless One cannot resist its poison. Riddle floats gently to the ground and draws a scroll from his bag.

The minion wizards finally manage to bring down Long Fist with a volley of magic missiles, just as Darl raises his unholy symbol to Scar-Eater and attempts to consume him with ¬unholy fire. The towering duskblade succumbs to the spell but a timely alter fortune from Riddle saves him and leaves Riddle staggered. Behind them Tyrrell burst forward in an almost inhuman rush to cast breath of life on Long Fist from a scroll. Jane, in Tempest form as a lumbering earth elemental charges the Faceless One and slams him with a powerful death blow. Scar-Eater brings his poisoned flail down and Darl time and again but can’t seem to make a dent against him. Without their highly effective archer, the rest of the party scrambles to wipe out the minions and maybe land a decent blow on Darl, but the heinous priest plane shifts away before they can.

Tired, annoyed, and more than a little concerned about the missing ranger, the party loots the Faceless One’s corpse and heals and restores themselves the best they can, now uncertain if or when and with how many minions Darl may return.

Session Fifty-Eight
In Which There is Surprise, and Then There is Fire, and Then We Almost Liberate the Hand of Vecna…but Ultimately Fail by That Much, As Usual

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (Maybe. Does it matter anymore?)

The party has no sooner been bestowed with conviction when a tear in reality opens between them and the Night Twist that Scar-Eater so doggedly soldiers towards. From the hole in space steps a crew of nightmares led by Darl, bearer of the Hand of Vecna. He is flanked by the pair of tieflings and an emaciated horned humanoid creature swathed in a sickening, greasy-looking layer of slime. Behind them stands a twenty-foot tall creature made of pure elemental flame. Of the Faceless One there is no sign. On the other side of the tear, splayed over the peak of a towering mountain, the desecrated corpse of what the party can only assume is the Roc King can be seen. Strapped to Darl’s back is a five-foot-long grayish-white feather.

No sooner has the tear closed behind them than Archie drops the icy burst sword he had equipped in anticipation of slashing the arrow-resistant Night Twist and draws Greenfang. While his first arrow finds its mark in Darl’s chest, the priest is unharmed by the attack. Riddle fires a line of ice at the cleric and follows that with a powerful blinding spell. Darl’s eyes film over as he loses his sight (though he appears only slightly affected by the cold), just as Scar-Eater charges forward at him (Darl being in the path between him and the Night Twist, after all). Scar-Eater’s blow deals a small amount of damage and the duskblade disappears from sight. Darl takes a small step backwards and casts heal upon himself, removing what little damage the party has managed to land along with Riddle’s blindness.

The fire elemental turns and charges at the Night Twist, setting it ablaze, as the slimy demon charges the area where Scar-Eater used to appear, scoring a surprising hit. Meanwhile, the tieflings close in on Long Fist and Archie, managing to grapple the archer but not the sentinel.

And originating from somewhere separate from the melee, a fireball explodes upon the Night Twist.

Jane activates her prayer beads and attempts to dispel the magic protecting Darl. She is surprised when her own spell bounces back upon her, stripping her of Riddle’s conviction and blessings of fervor as well as her own longstrider. Tyrrell tumbles towards the monks and stealthily slides his adamantine dagger into a soft spot as Long Fist pummels the same target from the other side. As the tiefling falls, Long Fist releases his aura of justice over himself, Riddle, and Archie.

The tree, awash in flames, turns all of its focus on the fire elemental, smashing down with its burning branches in an unrelenting attack. Archie struggles to free himself from the tiefling but only manages it with magical assistance from Riddle, who then proceeds to blind the remaining tiefling while focusing his smite on the Night Twist. Scar-Eater re-appears to smash at Darl with his cold iron longsword and a dose of enervation but while his attack lands, it deals only minimal damage, and Scar-Eater takes his own negative energy reflected back upon himself. Scar-Eater, undaunted, turns his next swing upon demon. He hits, but the slime covering its body coats Scar-Eater’s longsword in an attempt to destroy it. It manages to maintain its integrity though it is not entirely unaffected by the acid.

And then the moment everyone has been waiting for: Darl takes a step back and raises his unnatural, blackened, filthy rotting hand above his head and sends a pulse of black energy into Scar-Eater, Tyrrell, Long Fist, and Riddle. Jane and Archie watch in horror as their four companions are temporarily paralyzed and a bit of their strength is drained. Another fireball streaks from seemingly nowhere and into the Night Twist, who is only moments from destroying the elemental.

Jane heads for the only paralyzed ally she can reach and bestows freedom of movement upon Riddle. Archie unloads on the remaining tiefling while sidestepping out of reach. Riddle summons his own fire elemental to attack the Night Twist. Darl takes the opportunity while his foes are paralyzed and distracted to heal himself and the tiefling of all damage. Great masses of earth erupt on either side of the Night Twist, battering it even as it blazes, but it continues to stand and lash out whereas any other tree in the Doomshroud would have been buried by the spell. It suddenly clicks together in Jane’s mind that the melee with Darl is merely a distraction, an attempt to keep the party from completing the Trial, and she unleashes her most powerful spell, a firestorm, upon the Night Twist, followed quickly by a flame strike, which destroys the abomination once and for all. She immediately feels the full force of the Night Twist’s curse attempt to overtake her, but by force of will and spirit she refuses to allow it purchase. She shifts into Fury, howling with the pain and power of what she has just destroyed.

Free of the paralyzing blasphemy, Tyrrell turns his lightning fast attacks upon the demon, leaving it bleeding out in his wake, and Long Fist unleashes an overwhelming smite upon the cleric of Vecna, hurling Darl down to the ground. However, upon touching Darl’s flesh, the half-ogre is forced to resist some unholy energy that threatens to tear away at his own soul. Despite the disadvantage of a prone enemy, Archie pelts about six arrows into Darl. Riddle sends his fire elemental to pound on Darl as well, but it isn’t powerful enough to pierce the cleric’s defenses.

Scar-Eater finishes off the slimy demon and turns to get in on the fun against Darl, whose attempt to heal himself is masterfully thwarted by a counterspell from Riddle.

Then without warning, Darl disappears, plane shifting away, according to Scar-Eater. Shortly thereafter another rift in fabric of reality opens and the remaining tiefling runs through. Jane shifts back to her human form and attempts to bury the tiefling in a flame strike but he expertly evades it. Through the gate, the party sees the Great Rift Canyon, with White Plume Mountain towering in the distance. Long Fist howls in rage and fury. The gate winks shut.

In the aftermath of the battle, the companions find themselves a bit stunned, mostly un-hurt, and unclear about whether or not they can possibly complete the Trials of Tilagos without the Living Feather of the Roc King, still strapped to Darl’s back on another plane somewhere. But there is little time for conjecture. Riddle prepares to question the corpse of the fallen tiefling.

“Did your party take the Belt from our hiding place?”


“Did your party bring about the death of the Thorn Vale Terror?”


“What was the plan if something went wrong while you were here?”

Regroup at Dragotha’s Lair.

“Where is that?”

In the Worm Crawl Fissure.

“What did Darl hope to accomplish by gaining access to the Library?”

The secret must be kept, and he will be the keeper.

“What would Darl do if he was prevented from getting those secrets?”

His secrets are not mine.

“What is Darl’s weakness?”



Session Fifty-Seven
In Which a Fallen Friend Rises and the Doomshroud Calls

Freeday, 13 Fireseek, CY 596, continued (presumably)

With Tyrrell’s body cooling on the broken stones, the party divides up the titan’s treasure and formulates a plan to move the Belt. Three enormous black pearls and one suit of magical leather armor go into the handy haversack and Archie takes the efreet’s magical longsword, a statue of an elf maiden carved from a mammoth tusk, and one of the gargoyles’ composite longbows. Scar-Eater avails himself of a suit of magical mithril plate mail and a belt of giant strength. The roughly twenty-three-thousand silver pieces and assortment of severed heads is left behind without reservation.

Jane announces to her friends that she has the power to reincarnate Tyrrell but not the materials. She believes she may be able to find the necessary components closer to the edge of the old-growth forest about 10 miles away. Before they can do anything like that, however, they must solve the riddle of what to do with Krathanos’s belt and body. Jane casts a spell to consume the massive corpse in slime and Long Fist shoulders the Belt, intent on dragging it to their next destination.

Archie leads the party cautiously, avoiding tyrannosaurus territory, to the edge of what they think must be the notorious Doomshroud forest around dusk. The totality of its freakishness is evident for the first time – black trees hundreds of feet tall sway against the wind. Black ichor drips, oily and greasy, foul-smelling, sulphurous, from branches and bark. Swooping high above, Athena notices a massive clearing in the middle of the wood. It is time to commune with this twisted nature.

Athena flies high into the canopy of the great old-growth trees. As Bast, she rakes a path through the thick ropy vines and branches, nestling deep into the vegetation, occasionally requiring Fury’s smaller teeth to make her way. Finding a tight crook where two great branches meet, she settles in. As Tempest, she begins a small, focused whirlwind and sets the canopy swaying and rustling in her breeze. Then finally as Willow, she sinks her own roots and vines into those of the tree and merge as one. For ten minutes, she sways there, high in the sky, at one with the vegetation and the wind. Then eventually she starts to hear whispers in the rustle of branch against branch and leaf against vine. Words begin to form. And the first words she hears are words of praise. Words of thanks. Words of blessing. The entire natural world (in this unnaturally created place) is calling out to the Daughter of the Storm.

THANK YOU, it says. THANK YOU, DAUGHTER, FOR GIVING US LIFE. THANK YOU, DAUGHTER, FOR PROTECTING US. THANK YOU, DAUGHTER, FOR ALL WE ARE. WE HONOR YOUR SACRIFICE EVEN AS WE ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR POWER. The trees only know her as a legend passed down through the ages, so it is with the winds and the birds and the other lesser wildlife. But the earth itself remembers her. YOU ARE THE SAME, it says. I HAVE CHANGED – MY ROCKS HAVE SHIFTED, MY CONTOURS HAVE EVOLVED, BUT YOU ARE AS I REMEMBER. YOU ARE AS TEMPORARY AS THE ANT OR THE BUTTERFLY, YET SEEMINGLY AS PERMANENT AS THE OCEAN. Jane senses that the natural world would be happy to bathe her in praise from now until eternity, but then it becomes aware of her pressing interest in plant or mineral oils and the presence of powerful unnatural creatures. Her consciousness passes through her roots and down through the roots of the tree and into the earth. Nearly ten miles away, she senses a pocket, shallow enough to reach, of natural vegetative oils she could access. There is nothing else of note in the plant and mineral categories that she discovers, but the third category of inquiry reveals an unexpected tidbit. Jane senses the expected nearby presence of four other powerful creatures chained to prophecy yet possessed of the power to countermand it, touched by the gods in the past, present, and future. And she also senses the faint, distant presence of a small piece of another such creature. One long dead – over a thousand years dead – yet preserved. Lingering. Waiting. It is flesh, but flesh that is wrong. Flesh that is twisted. Flesh that has been drained. Flesh without soul, yet destined not to remain so. It is very near to the oils. Suspiciously near, in fact. Like, within feet of the pocket. Almost as though it had been placed there deliberately. But who could have done such a thing over a millennium ago?…

Jane returns to the party and shares what she has learned. She knows the oils will be of a kind she can use but would lack the powerful magical blessing they would need to serve as a resource to reincarnate Tyrrell. However, she could use the oil to melt down, and ultimately absorb the power of a magic item dedicated to maintaining life and powering the flesh, such as her ring of sustenance.

But they must camp for the night before they can retrieve the oils, and Archie confirms this seems like as good a place as any.

Starday, 14 Fireseek, CY 596 (as far as anyone knows)

After an uneventful night and long slow slog along the edge of the Doomshroud, the party reaches the general area around mid-afternoon, then takes another couple of hours to locate the precise spot to dig for the oils. After yet another hour of digging, they discover a pocket of amber. Encased within there is a finger, preserved through the ages – a ring finger, to be precise, still clad with a familiar band. Its flesh is ashen gray, its nail is black as is the sliver of bone still jutting from its base. Jane looks from its ring to the ring of sustenance upon her own finger; without question the two are the same. Exactly the same, in fact.

“The Jane in the casket near the portal had all of her fingers,” Jane says aloud, “but she was not wearing this ring.”

Riddle casts divination and asks, ”Should Jane use the finger in the amber for Tyrrell’s reincarnation?”

And on a hush of wind, the voices reply, ”Tyrrell left it here expressly for that purpose.”

Not a lot to argue with there.

Jane brings the unearthed oils to a boil and then adds the found ring of sustenance to the brew along with shards of rock, selected leaves and twigs, and few drops of tree sap. Chanting and praying, Jane draws upon the power of the earth, sky, and water and focuses it into the boiling oils. Soon the ring droops, sags, and then melts into the mixture. Jane carefully pours the oil over the ancient gray finger.

Immediately, the finger twitches. It flexes slightly. Then a few nearby blades of grass bend of their own accord towards the finger. They tear themselves from the earth and fly to the finger like metal to a magnet. Within seconds they are absorbed into the finger and transform into small slivers of gray flesh, extending its length. More shards of grass follow, and then pieces of earth, bits of amber, dribbles of oil and slowly…slowly, a shape begins to form.

Within the hour, an entire body lays upon on the ground. It is Tyrrell, but not Tyrrell – rather like an ancient replica of their friend and ally but composed entirely in shades of gray. The flesh is gray, the hair and nails flat black. The webby network of scars across his face remain but angry red flesh no longer, now they are pale white, except…as the ritual concludes, those scars jump to life with their familiar greenish glow. The erstwhile lump of Tyrrell-shaped earth suddenly draws a great shuddering breath, gasping to life. He sits up and his eyes open, revealing pure white pupils and irises. The others notice uneasily how the nearby shadows of the deepening afternoon seem to bend towards him, not necessarily drawn to him but possibly unaware of his otherness from themselves. He seems to flicker, not-there for half-heartbeats, real but unreal, present but…not right.

“The colors here are blinding,” he says. “Where am I exactly?”

The Isle of Tilagos?” Jane replies.

“We killed the titan yesterday,” Riddle adds, but new-Tyrrell seems unable to wrap his mind around the concept of ‘yesterday’. He speaks of waking in a gray land, with tombstones and a river made of blood, and of lingering there, for a century or more. He speaks more as he allows him to be examined. Apparently he was in Hades, where creatures who lived mortal lives of profound, unrepentant evil go when they die – definitely not a place someone of his particular moral standing would have expected to end up. There he endured one hundred years of torture. Upon arrival he was immediately seized by terrifying insect-like creatures and held captive as black, midnight hags performed unspeakable tortures upon him… all of which he remembers in great detail. “You all look familiar,” Tyrrell says uncertainly. “I remember we were in the midst of something… big. I have a memory of my own actions, almost destroying all of us, but that is all. I remember in the midst of the… work they were doing on me, hearing a voice… a woman’s voice, that seemed vaguely familiar, but not entirely, but I looked to it, and I woke up here.”

In the ensuing silence, some of the party reflects on how time is, it seems, a flat circle.

Jane confirms he is not undead, and while he is human, he seems to adhere to another set of rules. His flesh is human but not indigenous to this place or the Material Plane. He is broken, and thin, and has travelled a great distance. The reincarnation functioned as it was supposed to, with what it had to work with – that finger. Jane is confident that prior to their digging it up it had been buried here for at least twelve hundred years. “But,’ she says, “that doesn’t mean we don’t need to cut off his finger and bury it here before we leave.”

As most of the group theorizes about the possible connection of this plane to Hades or of Hades to Vecna, or what, if anything, short of a miracle could have sent their friend to that place, Long Fist opens his senses to his companions, and finding no evil there, is mollified for the moment.

“Hold your tongues,” Archie says, and points to a shimmer in the air above them. Jane attempts and fails to dispel the scry sensor, but Riddle succeeds and as dusk approaches, the party moves to a place where they can hide the Belt with a permanent image, and not under scrying eyes. They move in a different direction to set up camp, but they have barely settled in for the night when all but Long Fist notice they are surrounded by a quartet of lean, emaciated purple hunting cats on six legs, their bodies carved solely of muscle, bone, and tentacles.

Tyrrell immediately vanishes. Jane sends a sirocco upon the first cat and it is knocked prone in a blast of fire. Archie dons his cloak of the bat and scampers up a tree. Scar-Eater activates his new armor of speed, swiftly turns invisible and moves within ten feet of the prone cat. The cats close in as Riddle bestows his blessings of fervor on the party.

Tyrrell tumbles unseen towards one of the cats but his blade passes through air on his attach. Jane brings down on column of divine fire on two of them, managing to catch one full blast, and moves into a better position. Long Fist moves in on one of the cats, who swipes him as he closes, and lands a sturdy blow. Two of the cats surround Archie’s tree and smack him as he shimmies up, and his one shot flies through thin air as his target is displaced. Scar-Eater closes with the cat that was previously on fire and slams it with a tripping ray of exhaustion. It falls prone, exhausted by the spell. Scar-Eater disappears again, and the cat swipes pointlessly where he was. Long Fist and Riddle absorb two big hits each from cat-tentacles, and Riddle responds with a blast of cold damage on one at the base of Archie’s tree.

Still unseen, Tyrrell delivers a pair of massive strikes on the cold cat, draining it of some of its strength, and Jane winds her way through the battlefield, dodging attacks for the most advantageous position from which to unleash an empowered fire snake on three of them before transforming into a fiery Tempest herself. Long Fist bloodies one but it snatches out of existence before he can land a second blow. Archie skewers one cat to death and fires upon another while Scar-Eater fires three scorching rays into a third before turning invisible again. His deeply wounded target flails at the place he once occupied as his two companions run away. Archie finishes him off in a workmanlike four shots, and the party is able to rest.

Sunday, 15 Fireseek, CY 596 (I mean, maybe, right?)

The party ventures into the Doomshroud, to “silence its mournful song” and they haven’t traversed half a mile before they begin to hear a very distant, very, very, very despair-filled song, sung in a woman’s voice. Within moments, Scar-Eater’s face has gone blank and he has begun shambling towards the source of the song in a way which convinces the others he is being compelled. They try restraining him but it seems to cause him physical pain. They try reasoning with him but he is unable or unwilling to adhere to logic. Riddle’s effort to dispel the effect is pointless. Scar-Eater has his faculties, but only one goal.

The party quickly decides not to abandon Scar-Eater to his fate and to follow him towards the source. After about three hours, they hit the edge of the treeline, the clearing Athena scouted from above the previous day. At the center, a black tree hundreds of feet tall, swaying hypnotically despite the noticeable lack of breeze, emitting this terrible song. Using her eagle eye spell Jane notes nothing else in the clearing besides this thing that should not exist, this terrible tree fouled by dark magic into creatures called Night Twists. She knows that to kill this creature would evoke a terrible curse, but she also knows the only way to free Scar-Eater of its grip, to silences its mournful song, and to fulfill the Trials of Tilagos, is to risk the curse and kill the creature. It can create gale force winds and protection from slashing weapons, but is as vulnerable to fire as any other plant.

Riddle casts conviction on them all, and the party prepares to do battle.

Session Fifty-Six
In Which the One Who Got Them Into This Fight is the First to Check Out of it

Freeday, 13 Fireseek, CY 596, continued (presumably)

When last we left our intrepid band, Tyrrell had just taunted the most dangerous foe they’ve encountered into attacking them. At seventy feet tall and backed by six flying gargoyles with composite longbows, the bloodthirsty maniac seems poised to send them all back home the hard way.

Still riding high from his recent very-effective battle contribution, Tyrrell taps himself with his wand to turn invisible and attempts to sneak into a superior tactical position. Archie fires an acid-laden arrow directly into Krathanos’s eye from around the corner of his hiding place, and another one not far behind just before he scrambles up the wall of the keep. The burning arrow in his eye draws the angry titan towards Archie through Scar-Eater, Long Fist and Riddle (whose attacks unfortunately miss despite the titan being enormous and totally vulnerable to them). As the titan swipes his hand, a disembodied spectral hand grabs Archie on the wall. The gargoyles pepper Jane, Riddle, and Long Fist with arrows.

Grasping the prayer beads around her neck, Jane shines with swelled power and summons a column of holy fire down upon the titan and one of the gargoyles before shifting into Wolf form and getting the heck out of dodge. Long Fist steps in to smite evil on Krathanos and prepares to release his powerful aura of justice. Meanwhile, Riddle wracks his brain for any hidden memory that might help him defeat the titan and something, somewhere, clicks. He gives his blessings of fervor to those closest: Scar-Eater, Long Fist, and Tyrrell. Riddle swiftly summons an ice strike but it falls to respond against the enormous enemy’s resistance to magic. Scar-Eater takes a step and channels enervation into his blade, enough for one hit to suck a little life out of this monstrous psychopath.

Tyrrell taps himself with his other wand and moves closer to Long Fist, drawing his sword of subtlety from the scabbard of keen edges. As he does, as if he weren’t even invisible, Krathanos bashes him with the Warhammer on the way towards Scar-Eater. Some wild, titanic gesticulations later, the duskblade…disappears. Archie wrestles against the spectral hand grappling him to no avail.

The gargoyles unleash another volley of arrows and Fury takes one in the flank just before she shifts back to her human shape and drops an empowered flame strike in retaliation on two of them. Long Fist lands two blows on the titan and then swiftly lays hands on himself. Summoning the power of the ring of the wind dukes, Riddle transforms into a sixty-foot line of lightning, plowing through the titan for some damage. He tries again to call an ice strike and fails. Scar-Eater reappears on the battlefield, just where he left it.

Despite his massive wounds, Tyrrell delivers a strong series of blows to the titan, who appears to heal before his eyes as it turns and casually shatters both Tyrrell’s sword and his body. Long Fist pounds the titan in retaliation as Archie frees himself of the crushing hand and scurries up the wall. Long Fist takes two arrows from the gargoyles for his trouble, and Archie and Jane take others. Jane summons a swirl of ice and snow to bloody two of the gargoyles. Long Fist, after laying hands upon himself and boosting his power with divine vigor, drags Tyrrell’s broken corpse out of the fray and potential further desecration. Riddle watches in despair as their fallen comrade is dragged out of even the extended range of his breath of life, and turns his frustration into a powerful spell upon Krathanos. The titan is spectacularly and particularly unprepared for it and is permanently cursed by the mysterious gods whom Riddle serves.

The titan stands helpless as Scar-Eater moves in and unleashes a rolling mass of biting, chewing insects upon his flesh. Archie pelts him with more acid arrows while fending off attacks from a pair gargoyles. The rest of them target Jane and Riddle, who drops to the ground, bleeding out. Jane heals herself, moves closer to the action and throws scouring winds at one of the gargoyles. Long Fist heals himself and Jane before charging the titan full on for a solid blow. Riddle attempts to stabilize himself but can’t quite manage it. Scar-Eater continues his insectile attack on Krathanos and then runs over to force-feed a potion of healing to a grateful Riddle.

Archie delivers a death blow to one of the gargoyles with a focused barrage as Krathanos recovers a bit and watches the battle carry on without his participation. The five remaining gargoyles pummel the party with not-insignificant attacks as they dodge Jane’s sandstorm. She continues moving closer to Long Fist and heals them both. Long Fist delivers blow after blow against the cursed foe and Riddle gives his cold ice strike one more go with no luck. For all his offensive helplessness, the party is having trouble penetrating Krathanos’s defenses.

Archie takes out another gargoyle just as the titan manages to momentarily break the curse’s bonds long enough to crack Scar-Eater and Long Fist with a pair of blows with his Warhammer, but the gargoyles, down two of their number, seem to feel the fight is no longer weighted in their favor. They take to the sky to watch the titan take Jane’s fire snake, Long Fist’s punches, and finally, Riddle’s insanely powerful death blow to the foot with his axiomatic sword. Unwilling to carry on the titan’s fight, the gargoyles take off up the coast and leave our heroes wondering just what in the name of Heironeous they are going to do with the gigantic, 480-pound belt they came here to recover.

Session Fifty-Five
In Which Tyrrell is One Guidance Spell Away From Intimidating a Titan Into Stripping Down

Godsday – Waterday, 10 – 11 Fireseek, CY 596

As is becoming par for the course, no adventure can begin without a good deal of shopping. Many scrolls, diamond dust doses, and other items are purchased and divvied up between the party.

Earthday, 12 Fireseek, CY 596

The party returns to the obsidian portal bearing an additional scroll of greater teleport from Tenser and the necessary recovered crystals to open the door. With everyone standing on the disk (and no one’s moral compass triggering an ill effect), Tyrrell places the crystals in the correct order. With a sudden and shocking shift in the environment, the party finds themselves…elsewhere.

There is a gentle wind, bird songs on the air, the hum of insects and, notably, no rain. In one direction a black forest sprawls across the landscape, periodically emitting a ghostly green glow from the cacophony of its canopy. In the opposite direction, hills blossom into barren mountains. The whole world is vibrant with life.

A being steps from the trunk of a tree to face the heroes. He is tall, gallant, in gossamer armor, haloed by insects and bearing a barbed spear. And then another similarly awesome creature steps from another tree, and then another. Jane steps forward to greet them.

“I am Tylanthros,’ says the stranger, “Guardian of this realm. My brothers and I are the Last Resort. We protect the Isle from all trespassers. You seek the Fountain, though you do not know it yet. It is linked to everything in Last Resort. If you drink it, the Library will be freed.”

All that sounds great but then Tylanthros starts in on the Trials of Tilagos, four feats to conquer before he will answer their questions and show them to the Fountain of Dreams. All they have to do is Claim Krathanos’s Golden Belt, Silence the Doomshroud’s Mournful Song, bring about the Death of the Thorn Vale Terror, and Harvest the Living Feather of the Roc King.

Simple, right?

The party is just sharing what they know of Krathanos, a titan of legend, a murderously insane menace who terrorized the Material Plane until his mysterious disappearance fifteen centuries ago, when a fifty-foot-tall insect breaks the tree line and stares at them, frozen in contemplation. As long as the party does not move, it doesn’t see them. After quite some time, Riddle can no longer handle the tension, and with lightning dancing in the mountains in the backdrop, he beckons the giant mantis with one crooked finger. Archie gets a few arrows off before the thing leaps four hundred feet through the air in order to join the fray. Scar-Eater immediately attempts to cast dimension hop to the creature’s eye level but fails to go anywhere. The spell simply fails.

The ensuing battle goes badly for Jane, who is immediately raked free of her armor and a good deal of flesh in the first few seconds. She valiantly rallies into an earth elemental and charges, only to be rewarded with one blow and a swift death. The rest of the party manages to deal enough damage to it immediately after to drop it while Riddle breathes life back into their fallen druid.

With a bit of a breather in the aftermath, Scar-Eater is able to share what he learned from his failed attempt to teleport into the fight. Apparently there is no connection to the Astral Plane here, so no spell utilizing the Astral Plane will be effective. In the meantime, noises are coming from all over the place – mammalian in one direction, saurian in another. Yes, that’s dinosaurs.

Archie sets about tracking the Faceless One’s party and reports that they seemed to head neither towards the mountains or the forest but towards the plains, and very recently, as in earlier today. But he cautions that it appears that time is different here and he can’t be sure exactly how. Riddle suggests following the other party, assuming they are setting about the same trials the party was assigned. He reasons that if they take on the first trial, the enemy may be weaker in the aftermath and at a disadvantage for the party’s attack.

The groups follows Archie’s lead for about four hours and ten miles when they enter an area with many crushed skeletons of giant animals, almost as if it was something’s lair.

Oh, wait. That’s because it is.

Something has been stalking them from behind a hill. Something with a large white furry head. A gargantuan four-armed gorilla, also known as a girallion behemoth, to be precise.

Riddle throws up a blade barrier while Jane brings a column of flame strike down upon it. Long Fist pierces it with his spear while Scar-Eater moves, drawing a mean swipe, and scorches it through Riddle’s blades. Archie and Tyrrell execute their typical massive damage, but the girallion responds by rending Scar-Eater with two of its four sets of claws. Long Fist punches it in the leg as he moves in to lay hands on Scar-Eater and keep the swordsman in the fight. Rejuvenated, Scar-Eater delivers a tremendous blow full of fire and revenge, bringing the beast crashing to the ground amidst the skeletal remains of its victims.

The party takes some time to heal Scar-Eater and repair Jane’s armor from earlier, entertained by Tyrrell’s announcement that he has “not taken any damage” and has “been useful and effective the entire time.”

The party spends the rest of the day tracking the Faceless One and his allies, moving about twenty miles south to veer around the Doomshroud forest, and making another ten miles before night falls, and they rest.

Freeday, 13 Fireseek, CY 596. Presumably.

After surviving their first night on the Island of Last Resort unsullied, the party keep moving along the trail of the Faceless One. By noon, about seven miles further on the trail, the path has become bordered by thousand-foot cliffs dropping into the raging ocean. “They stopped here,” Archie says. “Lingered for a time, but not overnight. I don’t believe they’ve slept at all.” Tyrrell spots a handful of flying things in the air a couple of miles ahead, circling around something.

Riddle prepares a divination and asks for advice on the best way to catch up with Darl and Faceless One. The gods reply:

”If you follow their path, you will always be behind them, If you determine their location perhaps you can meet them on different terms.”

Riddle subsequently asks, “How can we determine the destination of Darl and the Faceless One?”

”Their destinations are four-fold. One is within view. They may be operating under more information than you currently are.”

That is going to be etched on their gravestones.

The group decides to hustle on up towards the flying creatures ahead, which are now moving towards the group. After a spectacularly bad effort to take cover for everyone that isn’t Archie or Tyrrell, the creatures – likely gargoyles – approach and ask, “How may we help you?” How unexpectedly friendly! The quartet might make a find welcome wagon if not for their leather armor and bows.

The party explains that they seek another party who preceded them in this direction. The gargoyles find that interesting and explain that we are in Krathanos’s territory and that they have been dispatched to inquire whether we want to show our obeisance. They also express curiosity as to whether the party has come to free Krathanos, imprisoned for so long by the horrible druids.

On the way to the titan, Long Fist suggests to Riddle that they pretend to show obeisance towards Krathanos. “Are you suggesting we lie?” Riddle asks, confused.

“Anything to get us closer to the Belt,” Long Fist replies.

“Perhaps then you can snap its neck,” Jane says, not quite, but almost under her breath.

As they approach the keep the sounds of wild animals yowling in pain seems to shoot straight to the druid’s heart. The gargoyles swoop down. In front of what remains of the Keep, leaning against a wall, sits a humanoid of truly epic proportions. Seventy-feet tall, carved from legend by the gods themselves. His enormous belt must weigh hundreds of pounds. Mighty Krathanos toys with a thirty-foot Warhammer as the gargoyles bow at his feet. “Have you come to free me?” he rumbles.

“What would you give to be freed?” Riddle asks.

“What would you ask of my majesty?”

Riddle answers, “Two things.” When he inquires further about the other party, the gargoyles claim they were dispatched, but Riddle wants to see their bodies as proof.

“I don’t like…red things,” Krathanos says as he hurls the head of an efreet at the party’s feet.

After an appropriate moment of silence, in which no one is going to pretend they aren’t relieved they won’t have to deal with that thing’s wishes in the final confrontation, Riddle diplomatically asks about the rest of them. “The others ran away with their tails between their legs, without that which they sought. I have been waiting for so long.” Krathanos turns to Long Fist. “Make me a muscle, little one.”

“It could never compare to the mightiness of your arm, but here it is.”

Krathanos feeds the party some pitiful tale of being a humble servant of Kord, unjust imprisonment, a lack of mercy and blah blah blah set me free already.

Riddle says, “We cannot guarantee you will go free if you do, but unless you give us your Belt to take back to the Guardians of Last Resort, you never will.”

Krathanos considers, then points to Jane. “I will give you my Belt for that one.”

“We will give you her belt,” Riddle says, and Krathanos smashes an entire tower with one blow of his warhammer. “If you take one of us, you limit our ability to set you free!”

It certainly seems like this crazy banter could go on for the rest of everyone’s days, until Tyrrell reveals himself from where he was hidden and says, “Look, you can give us the Belt, or you can be destroyed as we have destroyed all those we encountered so far.”

And it certainly seems like maybe that would have worked. Like maybe it was within just about two or three percentage points away from working. Ah well. Next time.

Session Fifty-Four
In Which a Reckless Deed Comes From the Most Unlikely Source, and Other Acts of Inquisition

Godsday, 10 Fireseek, CY 596

The party decides that attempting to pursue the Faceless One and his fellows through the portal to the lost library of the Order of the Storm is the priority – it will be dangerous and they may not succeed, but it is imperative that they make every attempt to subvert the prophecies of the Age of Worms and perhaps, improve their future prospects.

After gathering all that they know about efreet and about the Hand of Vecna, their intent seems more folly than ever, but they are undaunted. Riddle is determined to gather every bit of information he can from all sources that are available to him, but finds himself short of the material components necessary to commune with his deity. In the meantime, the party heads out to recover the crystals Tyrrell will need to operate the portal.

Following Riddle’s locate object spell, the party enters a maze and follows it for several hundred feet to an enclosed area. The shattered remains of four marble statues litter the ground. Archie discovers signs of a very recent battle here, possibly just yesterday. “No bodies,” someone notes. Jane inspects the shards of marble and imagines them whole – humanoids and elves in ancient druidic garb. “Stone golems,” Scar-Eater suggests. Beneath the torso of one of these fallen protectors, Riddle spots a swath of shattered green crystals. While not exactly the same as the ones used by the kenku to activate the portal, the party collects a few and then Riddle turns his locate object spell to the blue crystal.

The party follows the spell further on into the maze until they come to a murky pool. In a tangle of wood and water, an immense, sixty-foot-long tentacled plant floats lifelessly, another defender down. Jane enters the water and finds a bed of faintly glowing blue crystals, but also a pair of decomposed, skeletal remains. Among them, some robes, sword, scabbard and slippers seem completely unravaged by time, weather, or water. Jane returns to the surface with the crystals and these items.

From among a group of dead ropers, the party retrieves the third and final crystal.

Before teleporting back to Magepoint, the party indulges Tyrrell in his idea that he might disable the portal and trap those who went through earlier in the other plane. While the library might be lost, the knowledge gained there might not make it back to the Material Plane. Dealing with a major, ancient artifact, however, is, probably predictably, beyond Tyrrell’s level of expertise.

Reporting back to Tenser on what they found, the mage says it is time to wake the kenku captive, still unconscious from Jane’s spell. Agath and Celeste watch as well as the kenku struggles to consciousness. “My friends have some questions for you,” Tenser says. “You will answer them to the best of your ability.”

Krekke, the kenku rogue who lives in Greyhawk, seems to not know much at first, but as the questioning goes on she reveals enough to increase the party’s anxiety about the foes they are about to pursue. She knows that her companions were looking for the library and lost secrets. Her job was to get the portal to work and to stop anyone that tried to follow them through. She names the bearer of the Hand of Vecna as “ Darl”, reveals that the Faceless One shelters a living worm in his own neck and expresses disdain for the Cult of the Ebon Triad. “They must be destroyed because they are a blasphemy to Vecna. We all ‘keep the secret.’” She doesn’t know if or how they plan to return, but tries to scare the party with tales of what she has seen Darl do since obtaining the Hand. “He looked at a man and the man imploded.” Darl is apparently not only able to turn spells but is immune to them. She praises the Faceless One for his ability to summon monsters, sprout wards, open portals, and bring poison gas down faster than one can blink (not to mention the ray of clumsiness spewed by the worm in his neck).

She begins to get a bit mouthy about Vecna and Scar-Eater treats her to a merciless backhand. The only other useful information she has is that there was a repulsion field at the portal. It was alignment-based and immune to undead flesh; they needed Krekke to bypass the repulsion field to allow them through.

With the questioning over, Krekke is knocked unconscious and the party begins to contemplate their next move. To that end, Tenser provides the incense Riddle requires to commune. While Riddle and Jane devise a list of questions to ask, the rest of the group discusses Krekke’s fate: punishment, imprisonment, or some means of keeping her available as source of information for future use. After much debate, and with the issue still unresolved, Long Fist shocks the party by silently stepping forward and snapping the kenku’s neck.

Such an action from many of the others would surprise no one. But the summary execution of a helpless prisoner – regardless of the evil they may have done in the past – is an act strictly forbidden by Heironeous, god of Chivalry, Justice, and Honor. Long Fist winces as awareness of his impetuous deed crashes home and he feels the severing of his sacred connection to his divine patron. The Archpaladin’s judgment is immediate, and Long Fist realizes that he will have to mend that relationship as soon as possible.

The chorus of hollow voices that answer Riddle’s commune are vague on many of their responses and do little to ease the party’s worries about what may come. The Prophecy is being fulfilled, and may not be thwarted, but disrupting the Faceless One’s group could yield some positive future outcome. They do say that it is possible for the party to recover the lost secrets the enemy is seeking before them, but they cannot be clear about the enemy’s activities. Things are different there, they report.

Unsatisfied with the information from the commune spell, Riddle casts a divination, asking, “What can we do to have the best possible chance of success in going to the library and stopping the Faceless One and the Hand of Vecna?”

The rumbling voices reply:

”The race is on. Remain in this world and your opponent shall not return. Follow him and there is a chance you might succeed. Down that path lies the certain agony and possible destruction of your entire party. But down that path lies the possibility of a great victory. If you take the path, fight as though your very lives hang in the balance, for surely they do. Direct confrontation without preparation will bring your doom. Surprise confrontation, if necessary, is your only hope.”

And so it begins.

Session Fifty-Three
In Which it’s Their Party and They Will Scry if They Want To

Godsday, 10 Fireseek, CY 596

Upon arriving at his fortress, the party finds Tenser looking dubious and serious, accompanied by the always-serious Celeste. He wants to hear about the journey to Kuluth-Mar first, and when the party delivers their report he appears intrigued by the visions they all experienced periodically throughout their quest, especially the ones involving prophecy at the end. He notes that the last one was not the one of himself telling them the prophecy would be fulfilled, but the one about the Whispered One’s Hand and the Faceless Mage, implying, the great wizard suggests, that it is prophecy that is being fulfilled right now. The Hand of Vecna has been found.

While the party was in the jungle, Tenser was conducting research on Kyuss, Balakarde’s disappearance, and the Ebon Triad. On this last point he reports the disturbing discovery that this Cult may just be a front for the Cult of Kyuss. In all of his research, the name of Alhaster keeps appearing. Alhaster is the largest and most prosperous city of the Bandit Kingdoms, a collection of warring city-states located in the devastated region on the north side of the Nyr Dyv. It had been a completely lawless place until it was taken over by a fallen paladin named Prince Zeech and his fallen angel cronies, about eighteen years ago, and now it is a shining beacon of order, safety, cleanliness, and oppression. It is also the major port city for a large swath of land, controlling everything that goes in or Bandit Kingdoms. It is under constant attack, but the insane despot Zeech has many powerful allies, including, it is rumored, a black dragon (possibly Illthain).

Alhaster appears to also be the birthplace for the Cult of the Ebon Triad, home to a surprising number of the cult’s leaders. Celeste adds that her own research led her to Balakarde’s favorite Greyhawk libraries, where she found the lone copy of a book called A History of Alhaster, written by a cleric of St. Cuthbert named Rhorsk. It told of a cult of Hextor, believed to be the root of the Cult of the Ebon Triad, known for the use of the writhing dead, that was defeated by an elven noblewoman named Lashonna, one of Alhaster’s most powerful sorcerers. Somehow, the leaders of that cult escaped prosecution.

Celeste further reports that her research uncovered a sort of task list for Balakarde: talk to Lashonna, talk to Rhorsk, research more about Ebon Triad, etc. Tenser advises the party that Alhaster should be their next destination.

Most of the party seems poised to agree when Riddle says, “Hold a moment, please.” He goes on to explain that he feels as though the party is being led and wants to try to circumvent it. He is far more concerned with arresting the efforts of the Faceless One than with Alhaster at the moment. Tenser cannot find the bearer of the Hand of Vecna and suggests that Vecna himself may be shielding the enemy from his eyes. Jane offers to scry the Faceless One, though with little hope for success.

Using the mask from the Faceless One’s simulacrum and finding a convenient pool of water in Tenser’s fortress, the druid casts the spell. An outdoor location appears in the water, filthy, with torn ground strewn with rubble and rocks and faint patches of limp grass. The rain in the vision is nothing like the constant rain the party has lived with since the beginning, but a torrential downpour. Right in front of the vista of the scrying vision, as far as the eye can see in all directions, is an enormous wall of vapor and clouds, as if behind a sheet of glass. On the ground is a 10-foot-wide obsidian disk etched along the rim with druidic runes that Jane translates to read, ”Return my eyes to me and I shall gaze through the storm.” The Faceless One is there, with his green robes, leather mask, and iron studs. Beside him stands a towering humanoid clothed in flowing blue robes decorated with eyes along the trim. His face is protected from the wind and the party’s scry with a cowl. He carries a wicked-looking mace, crackling with frost, in one hand, and the other hand appears to be a twitching, rotting skeletal appendage with visible chunks of black and rotting flesh attached to it. These two fearsome figures stand before the disk, but atop this disk is one of much slighter frame – a purple-robed kenku, and in her hand, three crystals. She appears poised to place the crystals into three stylized eyes with shallow indentations along the circumference of the disk. Two others look on, lithe cloaked figures dressed in tightly wrapped silken scarves of red, with horned heads and fiery eyes identifying them as tieflings. Finally, off to one side, a surly, immense, twelve-foot-tall red-skinned humanoid whose flesh turns the rain to sizzling steam. The falchion on his back dances with flame and he is covered in bronze jewelry. “An efreet,” Scar-Eater whispers.

As the party watches, fascinated, the kenku places first one and then another crystal. Before she places the third, the blue-robed Hand of Vecna raises his mace and the entire groups steps onto the disk. The observing party holds their breath as the kenku cautiously places the third crystal – and there is a sudden blast of violet light! The Hand is blown completely out of the parameters of Jane’s spell and all others are driven back off the obsidian disk. The Faceless one follows the Hand, about eighty feet back where he landed amongst two more collapsed druidic stones. The Hand stands, heals himself, and both eye the kenku with an unspoken question. She shrugs and beckons them back to try again.

The kenku seems to take her time and make her placements with more care on the second effort, but upon final placement there is still a burst of that violet light. However, when it fades, she stands alone on the disk. The others have disappeared, and with their disappearance, Jane’s spell dies.

“They have left the plane,” Scar-Eater explains grimly.

The party engages in serious discussion, culling all they can from the details of the vision. Jane recognizes that obsidian is a material prized by druidic spellcasters throughout the ages for its use in epic-level casting to create massively powerful one-time effects, or milder effects intended to last for eternity. Tenser cannot identify the location but some discussion over the placement and age of the druidic stones keeps bringing Jane, Riddle, and Long Fist back to the legendary Order of the Storm, a name which Scar-Eater recognizes as being associated with a famous battle with Kyuss about fifteen centuries ago. While the Order is believed to have died out, Scar-Eater disagrees with that assessment. Tenser adds that there is a legend of a library connected to the Order, a repository dedicated to its lore, filled with thousands of years of history, memories, dreams, and secrets, and wherever this library was built, the Order supposedly drive some sort of bargain with primal elementary forces to whisk it off the material plane until the time came when it was needed.

Tenser offers the party a scroll of greater teleport, and after a brief period of preparation, the party is off and away in search of the obsidian disk.

Not surprisingly, the party manages to teleport right into an ambush of orcish pirates. Archie fires an opening salvo at the captain, who fires back with a devastating hit. Scar-Eater moves in for some of that action while Long Fist activates his aura of justice. Tyrrell cat’s graces himself up with a wand while Jane blasts the captain with an empowered flame strike. Long Fist and Archie take some damage in the pirates’ counter strike just before Riddle blasts all of them with lightning bolts.

Archie easily drops the captain on his next attack, and turns to focus on another poor orc. Scar-Eater knocks another off its feet and delivers a crushing deathblow while Long Fist and Hyaeliotrope gang up on another for some face-kicking. Jane shifts into her powerful Bast form and charges one while Tyrrell jockeys into a better position. Two of the remaining orcs charge Archie and two attack the big sudden tiger in their midst. Tyrrell manages to avoid being flanked but Long Fist is not so lucky as two crowd in on him and deliver a couple of mighty blows. Riddle sends his spiritual weapon into the fray and directs a few more lightning strikes as well.

Despite being plugged with arrow after arrow from the ranger’s bow, several orcs remain standing and open to the half-ogre attacks. Scar-Eater sends another to the ground with a scorching ray attack, giving several of his allies the chance to tear at the foe just as Tyrrell skewers another with a vicious strike. The great cat transforms into the towering Willow, who slams another orc into oblivion before turning on one of the only two left standing. One is dazed and the other chugs a potion when it has the chance, just before Riddle’s weapon smacks it upside the head, dazing it as well.

As the party looks over each other’s wounds and ties up the two dazed orcs, Riddle is suddenly stabbed by the heretofore unseen kenku! Riddle manages to stave off the poison from the kenku’s blade for the moment but the attack was devastating. As the party gains their footing to resume the battle, five versions of the kenku appear. Archie dispels one of them with a quick arrow, but Jane, quickly shifting back to human form, manages to catch the real thing with an empowered moon bolt, draining the kenku’s slight strength and knocking her unconscious.

No longer necessary to the party, they kill the remaining orc pirates and are free to investigate the site further. They examine the sarcophagus. Inside, wrapped in white robes, is Jane.

The sarcophagus cannot be opened. Scar-Eater notes two spell effects upon it, both wildly beyond his reckoning, one of abjuration, and one of necromancy.

While the rest of the party heals itself and gathers all of the pirates’ magical equipment, Jane transforms into a Athena and flies to the top of the tallest tree she can see. Transforming back, she uses the trees branches and leaves to lash herself amongst the foliage and against the storm, to bathe in the rain and the wind while she communes with nature. She sees the island they are on, in the center of the Nyr Dyv, and she understands that unnatural as the stormclouds are to their eyes, the natural world itself does not identify them that way. But nature can tell her nothing of her twin in the sarcophagus.

Scar-Eater suggests that when an outsider dies, their soul reforms from the material of the plane they are from, but since Jane is human and currently alive, the theory does not seem to apply. He can offer normal options from the arcana perspective as well – notably the most obvious, that someone or something has traveled through time at some point and before them is the evidence of the disturbance.

Jane examines the sarcophagus more closely herself. Even without touching it she can tell that the Jane in the coffin is dead, and perfectly preserved. And without question, her.

There is some discussion about trying to open the sarcophagus or take it with them but Jane objects, strongly, without quite knowing why.

Riddle casts locate object on the crystals from the vision that were used to activate the obsidian portal. He feels a pull towards their location – if the party is to pursue the Hand and the Faceless One to the lost library, the crystals will be key. With everything gathered, the party must decide their next move – return to Magepoint with their captive, or press on to find the crystals!


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