In Which We Enter the Gauntlet
Freeday, 19 Reaping, CY 601
A week has passed since the party returned to Magepoint. Dragotha’s phylactery has been destroyed, but not before Jane was nearly driven insane by visions of Kyuss (remember Kyuss?) when she attempted to scry the dracolich. They have shopped and rested and prepared themselves as best they could. Jane even took a daytrip to the Isle of Tilagos where she once spent fifteen hundred years, and might again, and again for all she knew. She sought peace with the words she had read upon the vault, a message passed down through the centuries from the Order of the Storm.
Once on Tilagos Jane lay down upon the earth and cast tectonic communion, and upon completion of the ritualistic spell let the island swallow her so she might absorb its wisdom. She asked the silent question: How may I best honor the sacrifice of the Order?
She was overwhelmed with a flood of memory and emotion. Too many to parse, at first. Anguish and pain and loss and terror and fear and regret and on and on and on. Focusing her mind, she sent out tendrils of herself into the soil, latching on to fossils, gripping bone fragments, and absorbed them into her system. The memories and emotions faded into the background of her consciousness as a set of images tried to make themselves known to her. She came to envision the history of this conflict as an endlessly repeating cycle: Evil rises. Evil is imprisoned. Evil rises. Evil is imprisoned. Every time the Evil rises, hundreds of thousands become undead, poisoning the True Cycle, the Cycle of Life and Death. Every time Evil rises, none rise up with the will and the power to destroy it. Lock it away. Shut it away. Forget about it. Pass on. The Evil rises again. The Elves had the power, but lacked the will. The Order found the will but lacked the power. Kyuss exists only to create undead. He is supremely skilled at it. His minions are supremely skilled at it. As long as he persists, he will continue his mission. And eventually he will win. Because his Age is Foretold… Fore… you… you… there is something in you… something outside of… YOU… if it is within your power, you must find the will to break the cycle. Kyuss must be faced. He must be ended. End him and you do honor to ALL who died fighting him. End him and you begin the process of healing for all souls that were twisted and destroyed by him.
Jane accepted this edict into her soul without hesitation: End Kyuss. End the cycle. Fight the Good fight.
But then a shadow of doubt overcame her. It was rooted in regret, the feeling that she had strove so long for Balance when Balance was not what was needed but overwhelming love and goodness to counter what Kyuss will and has wrought, but it was nurtured in fear: if she has been an integral piece of this cycle, and the cycle is ended, is there even a place in the world remaining to her? Or is her fate tied to Kyuss in some irrevocable way?
Without Kyuss, does Jane Fury even exist?
The earth answered her: Prophecy has been broken. Fate has been shattered. Time has been ruptured. There is no longer a Waiting Age — there is only the unknown. If there is to be a place in the world for the Daughter of the Storm, she will be the one that makes it. With her will. And her power. And her choice. Who does the Daughter wish to be? The last of a long siblinghood dedicated to living in the world while protecting it? Or not? A living, breathing, vital member of a new siblinghood formed in youth, tempered by darkness, and striving for the light? Or not? Will she be sacrificial warrior or shepherd? Will she be memorial or an example? Will she merely correct the evils of the past, or will she be instrumental in lighting the fires of tomorrow? Sometimes the storm passes — sound and fury, then naught but memory. Sometimes the storm sets ripples in motion that are felt for days and years to come. The Order wished to do more for this world than simply to destroy. The Order sought to gather knowledge, to forge connections, to arm the future against the evils of the past, to teach, to love, to live. One way to truly honor the sacrifice of the Order would be for Jane Fury to honor the Order’s way and carry on its ideals. But the Order as it was is now truly gone, and perhaps a new trail must be blazed. Only Jane Fury knows what her place in the world must be.
Jane closed her eyes and released the ritual magic back into the earth. As she drew her next breath, she was overcome with calm certainty in her purpose. She would ponder her place in the world if and when she survived the coming battles. But until then…
…the Storm is Coming.
Starday, 20 Reaping, CY 601
Armed with mostly new gear (and some old gear restored by Tenser), the party plans its next move. All agree that their only real option is to destroy the dracolich as soon as possible.
With a discern location spell, Riddle discovers that Dragotha is currently located in the writhing sanctum of the Tabernacle of Worms below the Wormcrawl Fissure, and he wastes no time teleporting the party there. They appear on the floor of a massive canyon with sheer walls rising up miles overhead. There are clouds two and a half miles above them. Ahead, they can just make out a tremendous stalagmite that is swarmed by hundreds of pale, undead chimeras. They note the small keep atop a cliff to the left where the lillend supposedly keeps its residence. Oh and there’s the squat plateau where the lich makes monsters. And hey! Earth Cancer Gorge where the ulgurstasa oracle of Kyuss eats people. It’s like Disneyland up in here. The walls are all raked with giant-sized claw marks and feces, as if hundreds of giant-sized dragons had nested here for a time.
Suddenly, Riddle collapses, images flooding his mind: a mist-shrouded gorge where the ground looks as though stone has been boiled and everything is covered with a foul undead fungus, then an enormous pale worm creature, its head a tangle of eyes, its body shrouded in a haze of writhing filaments, and just as this worm lunges to consume Riddle, the images shifts to an older-looking gentlemen. He feels his sanity begin to slip but he is strong enough to resist it. As he returns to consciousness he feels as if something is trying to burst out of his chest, pulling him towards in the same directions as the spire of chimeras, and he knows this is some kind of ghostly materialization, though not any kind of normal one. Could it be the ghost of Balakarde?
Riddle teleports the party to the edge of the Earth Cancer Gorge, trusting the pull will lead him where they need to go. He casts fly on Archie and then teleports both of them to scout the other side of the massive Gorge to figure out the next step. Both of them spot a forty-foot-wide gaping cave opening at the end of a little jut off the gorge, billowing out green mist and the sound of screaming. Riddle regroups the party, makes sure everyone can fly, and then teleports all of them inside that cave opening.
There is a schwumping, and the screams stop, and then the screams return, and there is schwamping. Then chittering. There are legs. And then six thirty-five-foot-long centipede explode out of the ground and the walls. Everyone is attacked. They have the party surrounded which makes it difficult for the party to focus fire. They are lightning fast and have terrific defenses but the party does manage to hurt it with fire and sneak attacks.
(But the outcome of the fight will have to wait until next time!)