The heroes set out ahead of the army of seelie fey. Behind them, the unicorns, centaurs, and other denizens of the enchanted forest spread out to halt the advance of the spriggan legions of the Fellnight Queen.
Ahead, the heroes must find the Faengard, an ancient stone barrier that Rhoswen the Fellnight Queen broke. The heroes must find the wall, replace the missing stones with those that they carry, and banish the Fellnight Queen before she can mount a true invasion of the mortal realm.
With the aid of her friends, Alliama leads the way to the Faengard. The heroes look for everything from crushe patterns in the grass to the creeping presence of the Feywild. Big climbs the ancient trees, and Kyler looks through the eyes of a bird he summons as a binder. Sebastien draws on his knowledge as a tracker, and Carrie draws on her knowledge of Darkonese history, and the placement of historic locations.
The heroes start out in a bit of confusion, but they quickly get back on track, and after that they make their way almost directly to the opening in the Faengard, where fey energies have been pouring into the Forest of Shadows.
At last the heroes have found the break in the Faengard. There is a section some twenty feet across where the mad gnome Tenzekil pried loose runestones, even as they burned his hands. The stones are cool to the touch in the hands of mortals, but they burned the gnome.
As the heroes consider what must be done, they hear shouts. They see shapes in the fog not far away from them. And they hear the thunderous roar of swarms of bees.
"You cannot defeat my queen!" cries Tenzekil. He rushes forward. At his side, smaller figures grow large as they join the charge.
A battle is joined with the heroes on one side, and on the other, Tenzekil, his bee swarms, and--at first--three Fellnight Spriggans.
The heroes realize that they can place the stones using spellcraft, but as more and more spriggans emerge from the fog, they see that time is running out.
Kyler and Carrie get to the gap in the Faengard first. Dechan lags behind a bit, erecting a ward that keeps Tenzekil's bees at bay. When he reaches the gap, the others stand toe-to-toe with three giants. Tenzekil is drawing near, armed and armored in the fey magic of his queen.
The last stone is slammed into place as three spriganns almost become seven from reinforcements, and suddenly the battle is over...
When the runestones are aligned properly, ethereal mists swell beyond the healed Faengard. There is a sense of motion, though no one takes a step. Reality warps, and those mortals who stood on the far side of the barrier find themselves in Darkon again. Likewise, without actually moving, those Fellnight fey who were in Darkon can be seen writhing within the Mists, and receding as if drawn by magnets.
There is a moment of quiet, a sense of disbelief that attuning the Faengard had the dramatic impact that it did. The Seelie Court had expected the heroes to need a staff that Rhoswen herself possessed.
Then, one of the heroes spots something in the distance. A small gathering of slender, humanoid figures. Elves. Some where shimmering mail coats. Others are garbed in the richest of silk robes.
One of these figures, who stands at the heart of the group, stands out from them. She is more graceful, more beautiful. She fairly radiates power. On her head is a crown.
She seems to be receiving some sort of report from the others.
The Fey Queen turns, seeming to peer at the heroes through the Mists.
Then her attention is taken by a glowing orb of light that grows into the shape of an elfin warrior. What he says is difficult to make out.
Kyler makes out just two words across the distance: "Frost giants." Alliama hears a full sentence: "Frost giants are drawing near to the Isle of Dread."
The Fey Queen shakes her head, but before she goes she looks back at the heroes one last time. She raises her hand, and a blue bird with a red belly flies out of the sky, swooping past the heroes, and out of sight in the forest behind them.
The Fey Queen and her entourage fade into the Mists.
Alliama and Big run off while the heroes bind their wounds. Concerned, Kyler watches through the eyes of a crow while others mend his body.
Alliama cannot find the blue bird, but what she does find, stuck in a hearty berry bush, is a sheet of blue paper, on which are words written in orange ink.
The handwriting is her mother's, but as she begins to read it, the scroll speaks, in the voice of Keradre Androlov.
I have few words, so know that I love you.
Do not hate me for closing the Fey Roads. I promise to re-open them as soon as it is safe. I trust several of my missing aides have found you despite my sternest warnings. Please tell them that I cherish each of them, and bear them no ill will.
I fear that agents of the enemy have entered my old home, as well. Chief among them are warriors loyal to the Prince of Frost. Beware of them, but trust in your training, and your family. I learned from your father the true meaning of family, and the true strength of it.
You are more than a match for any challenge these Lands of Mist can set before you. I knew it the first time I looked into your eyes. Be strong, brave girl, and know that we will meet again when our worlds are safe.
As the letter grows quiet, it becomes very heavy. It shimmers, as if sprinkled with silvery dust, and it continues to grow heavier. Alliama feels the weight of a hilt in her hand as the scroll becomes to brilliant to look at directly.
When the glow fades, she is holding a scimitar in her hand. It has a silver blade, and when she waves it, faint traces of light, like faerie dust, flick from the blade.
Soon after, the heroes catch up with Alliama. They find her waving the new sword through the air and delighting in the trails it leaves. She shares with the heroes what she has found, and her mother's message.
The others respond with what they have seen and heard. They are familiar with the name of the Isle of Dread. Markus Valorn once carried a treasure map to it, but The Missed never followed up on it promise.
It is said that the Isle of Dread exists in the Sea of Sorrows, but that it is not always in the Lands of Mist. Other times, it can only be found in the Feywild. It travels from the mortal realm to the fey realm at unknown intervals.
Alliama wracks her brain, thinking of what she knew of family. Her great-grandfather Oliantreer has been there twice, she learned from Gail while training. The heroes could find him, and potentially learn more of the isle...even its location.
But Oliantreer is still in Ravenesh Kesir, Keradre's home village. The heroes could not get there, even with Alliama's aid, but they know someone who could safely carry the message they need to have delivered. Gail could get to Oliantreer in Ravenesh Kesir.
The fey have vanished. After their spriggan enemies disappeared, the chaotic forces of the Forest of Shadows returned to their natural hiding places. Even the drunken treant is nowhere to be seen as the heroes make their way back to Elderwood.
The heroes are welcomed back to town as heroes. Elyin and Kailah Ursage thank the heroes personally, and see that they make the return trip with gifts of fine country food and the finest country honey.
Kyler is studying the stones that resurfaced from beneath Dead Man's Drop. They bear the marks of a vestige, and he has been puzzling at it since the heroes left Elderwood.
He works in his tent, at night, writing notes.
Tonight, he triggers it, rather by accident. Even as the vestige manifests, though, he realizes that for this to be happening, the vestige had to be seeking him, just as he sought it. This vestige--this dead god--was not only aware of Kyler from wherever dead gods lie, but it was actively trying to contact him.
A huge icicle thrusts up from the ground within the confines of the seal Kyler accidentally completed. A blurry white form can be seen moving within the ice for a moment. Then she spreads her arms and shatters her icy prison. Although she appears with her back to her summoner, her form is that of a winged minotaur. Haagenti waves her ice shield and battle ax to disperse the cold mist around her, then turns to face her summoner, revealing her bull-like face and icicle beard. Her frost-rimed fur is pure white, and her horns are made of ice. Her muscled form doesn’t appear female, but her smooth voice sounds quite feminine.
Suddenly, her eyes widen. Rage and elation unite in a bestial expression, and suddenly she cries out, "YOU!"
She reaches out as if to touch Kyler, though she is not real enough to make physical contact. She screams, her voice all too human, and she shouts, "I have found you! I have found you!"
Impossibly, Haagenti touches Kyler, and something strange happens. Kyler's eyes flare with blue light, the blue of the tattoos his father famously had, but which none of the current siblings possessed.
The creature cries out, and then she vanishes. The stones bearing her device vanish, and Kyler's notes burst into blue flame.
The other heroes have emerged from their tents just in time to see Kyler tumble backwards from his tent as if thrown. They see the flare of blue fire, on him and in his tent.
Kyler himself is hurled through the campfire, but then his movement halts. He stops flying in mid-air and then, simply, floats. He blinks, and his eyes return to normal, but it is evident from his expression that he does not feel in any way like himself.
When Alliama checks, she finds that he has tattoos now.
Kyler explains that this vestige was Haagenti, Mother of Minotaurs, and he explains the relationship he has to her. The conversation touches on Kyler the Wanderer's bracelet, and the prison of Baphomet he wore there.
There is no good answer, though the heroes fear anything might have happened, up to and including the escape of Baphomet from the Wanderer's wrist.
Kyler also reveals that he has sorcerous knowledge in his mind. He cannot access all of it, but the knowledge is there, waiting to be fully unlocked.
The heroes come home to find that several of their friends are no longer in the Enclave.
Gwendolyn has left town with Calemaria, the two setting out for adventure together the way Calemaria traveled for years with her eladrin companion. They seek out the half-dozen goblin lords, which are rumored to be nothing like goblins themselves. In fact, rumor has it that one of the creatures is nothing less than a black dragon who has learned the art of binding dead gods to his will.
More disturbing is the fact that Master Ioan has gone. He did leave a message on the table of the small home he shared with David Abira. The message, addressed openly to whichever of David's friends should find it first, explains that David has left in his mission to locate ESSPA, and that the time has come for David's mentor to return to the Monastery of Kriesch in Lamordia. There is no sign of David, and he was last seen walking east in from the Double Rose Tavern several days ago.
The silver that David had been keeping--for the heroes to melt down and forge into weapons--was also in a trunk, with the note Master Ioan left behind.
There is a knock at the door at the home of the Valorns. A pair of men in black cloaks ask for Kyler Valorn, and request his company. They are clearly Nova Vaasan, by their build, blonde hair, and accent.
When Bea asks whether she can accompany him, the two men look to each other nervously and say that they would not try to stop her, but that she will not be permitted into the meeting when they arrive.
Kyler is escorted to the Golden Stallion, the finest tavern in all the Enclave. There, he is taken to a private room, where an old man awaits with a half-dozen guards.
The old man dismisses the guards.
The man introduces himself as Ivan Rivtoff. He asks Kyler to sit with him and talk a bit. He remarks on his memories of the elder Kyler, but there is other business to attend.
The conversation turns to the reason that Ivan has come to the Enclave. He is concerned for the safety of his granddaughter, Alwina. Ivan is afraid that Alwina's faith has put her at odds with her heart, and that she may have become involved in something that could destroy her...and potentially much more.
Lord Rivtoff goes on to explain that both he and his granddaughter have long yearned for peace between Nova Vaasa and Darkon. Trade between two of the Core's largest economic powers could only help all people, especially those who live in the desolate mountains and plains to the south.
But where Ivan saw a barrier in the doctrine of the Lawgiver, Alwina believed she saw a way forward. She joined the Church as a Justifier, and took the first opportunity to be stationed at the Nova Vaasan Embassy in the Enclave.
Ivan explains that Alwina's recent communications have led him to believe that she is torn between her faith and her love of peace. He became so concerned for her safety that he came here to find her and shelter her if necessary--but Alwina has gone missing.
The two go home. There, they talk about what's happening. Then, having decided that they cannot keep this from their friends--but perhaps not all of them need to know the identity of the Enclave's new visitor and the full identity of Alwina--they set upon getting everyone together for breakfast at Androlov Manor.
Dechan is alone in the library, preparing for the day.
Then he senses a presence in the room behind him.
The presence speaks, but the voice exists only within Dechan's mind. He asks what he needs to do, and it asks him to turn around.
When Dechan turns, he finds that the far side of the library is gone. Instead, reality simply opens into a clearing of sorts. Some manner of campus, with living quarters to the west, academic buildings to the north, and some manner of garden maze and pond in the east.
The entire campus is walled, and Dechan sees familiar buildings rising in the distance. The tower of the Double Rose to the west. The roof of the Rhilmerrid Theater to the east. The spire of the temple rises to the north.
The presence is here, on an island in the center of the pond.
Dechan looks, and he sees two things. First, a brilliant lotus tree, standing easily a hundred feet tall. The only tree that could rival it is the Great Oak in Crispin's Glen. Pink blossoms decorate its boughs despite the unseasonal chill in the air.
At the foot of the tree stands the familiar, gaunt figure of David Abira. But while David stands there, Dechan senses that his friend is not before him. David's eyes are the same shade of pink as the blossoms that drift lazily to the ground around him.
It is the tree that speaks, not through David, but with him. His will is that of the tree now.
The tree reveals that it's name is Tranaihar. Long ago, it came to this place, and it established the Enlightened School for Study of Psionic Arts. An ancient evil, in many ways the originator of Evil, slumbers beneath its boughs. And, when night falls, that evil is going to surge forward in an attempt to break its bonds.
The evil is still weak, but it has many allies. Unless those allies are stopped, their aid will be enough to release this horror onto the world.
In order to protect the School, Tranaihar secreted it away, between places. While it stands directly above the entrance to the prison, Dechan has not prepared himself to enter the School. Instead, he must use the entrance as it exists in the world as he perceives it.
The entrance is marked by the grave of an undertaker.
Dechan is left staring at a wall.
A pink lotus blossom drifts down from overhead.
Bea and Kyler arrive with their news. The heroes begin to discuss what can be done, and comparing the message to Dechan with the one that came for Kyler. Beatrice is the first to say that they must hope that the two events are related.
After all, if there is something evil that must be released, then what could work better than the sacrifice of a priest of an evil deity who has shown her own tendencies towards compassion and empathy?
Alliama writes a note to Gail to ask her to look for Oliantreer. She will deliver it tomorrow, but she cannot hold back her need to at least have the request written.
The heroes settle upon two courses of action. Dechan will explore the Nova Vaasan embassy using a mouse summone by Bartholomew's Amulet. Alliama and Kyler will sit with him, outside the embassy, keeping watch while he directs his senses elsewhere.
At the same time Carrie and Sebastien accompany Beatrice to the Armeikos Estate.
For two house, Dechan guides a mouse through the embassy. He finds the spartan living quarters of the justifiers, and the slightly nicer quarters of those who rank as high as Alwina. He searches her room, but everything is put away and locked tight.
At Alliama's urging, he checks under, and ultimately within the matress. There, he finds a single sheet of paper with writing on it.
Dechan pushes the mouse to drag the paper out of the hole in the matress and onto the floor. From there, he recites the letters that he sees--though he cannot read Alwina's native Thavian. Kyler transcribes the letters and reads back a number of place names.
All of these have been scratched out but the last:
Dechan is attempting to find the most direct route from Alwina's room to an exit when the amulet's power fails at last. He blinks, returning to awareness of his surroundings outside the embassy wall.
Curious, Kyler produces the last letter than Alwina sent to her grandfather. It is the one that brought old Ivan to the Enclave to find her. Dechan confirms, the handwriting matches.
Carrie and Sebastien walk the canals, taking in the views while Beatrice visits with her mentor, and seeks help finding the missing justifier.
Harriet Armeikos is tense, but speaks about how she refuses to be flustered by the actions of those who skulk in the shadows.
Harriet explains to Beatrice that there are many newcomers to the Enclave right now. Many have come to skulk in the shadows of their city.
She dismisses the attempts at subterfuge on the part of the Nova Vaasan lord who is holed up like a rat in the Golden Stallion.
She speaks of dozens of others who have been slipping into the city over the last few months. At first, one or two, arriving under the guise of travelers, visitors to the museum, or caravan guards. Later, entire groups of so-called adventurers come to face off against the goblins or the Slave Lords. Recently, the have come in even greater numbers, brazenly walking into town under cover of the night.
When Beatrice asks what these invaders hope to accomplish, Harriet shakes her head and looks away dramatically. She remarks that Beatrice has made a career of finding answers to questions like these.
Harriet makes it clear that something serious is about to happen, and she only wishes that Beatrice could have been here sooner. But, time is of the essence, and her skills--and those of her friends--are sorely needed to preserve the home of the Goblinslayers.
But first, she has someone whom Beatrice should meet.
Harriet takes Beatrice down the hall, into the heart of the Armeikos Estate in a way she never has before. If the servants are surprised in any way to see her, they do not let on.
As they walk, Harriet speaks of her husband. She tells Beatrice that her Marcus has many interests. Few know that he deals in antiquities. He is, in fact, the master of a group of like-minded relic hunters. He has rather made his avocation his vocation.
One such man has recently arrived in the Enclave, and he has brought something that Harriet believes might be helpful to Beatrice's efforts, particularly if time runs too short, as she fears it might.
They enter a study, where a man stands with a glass of dark liquid near the blazing hearth. The man might be middle-aged, but it is difficult to tell because of some strange cast to his features. He is swarthy, lithe, with straight, dark hair combed back. He is dressed in the finest clothes, with a flair for dramatic jewelry, from begemmed rings to a large metal belt buckle in the shape of a raven's profile.
Harriet introduces him as "Monsieur Ravonetti," but the man reaches out to take Beatrice's hand with a generous, "Please, call me Vann."
Harriet explains that Master Ravonetti has recently come to the Enclave with an item of considerable value. Though he drives a hard bargain, she has determined that she will pay full price for item, as long as he can place it in Beatrice's hands at this moment.
At this, Master Ravonetti seems saddened. He says that it is the Lady Armeikos who drives a hard bargain. If the item is to be placed in the hands of Beatrice Valorn, then the price is nothing more than "free."
Master Ravonetti pulls a long scroll from a small pouch. He hands it to Beatrice.
The scroll is revealed to be nothing less than the Monster Chart that the heroes of The Missed carried with them for many years.
Vann says, "I believe you'll find that rumors of difficulty controlling the beasts within the scroll are exaggerated. With the right application of will, the creatures may even be recalled to the scroll."
He suggests that the magic of the scroll may have been manipulated by The Missed themselves after they left. It is said that the heroes made many such alterations to the fabric of reality after their departure, in order to tweak the balance of things away from the domain of darkness.
Sebastien spots a man beckoning to him while he and Carrie walk the canals. He approaches the man, who confirms Sebastien's name and then introduces himself as Aji Rain.
Rain says that there are many strangers in the Enclave today, and many of them make him nervous with the way they look around.
He says that not all of newcomers bear ill will against the people of the Enclave, though. He represents a consortium--which cannot take direct action, but also cannot sit without taking any action, considering the circmstances--and he would give Sebastien a gift.
Rain presents a deck of cards, but he warns Sebastien not to open them right now. They are items of great power, and should only be drawn with a clear mind and focused intent.
The heroes reunite and share what they have learned. They set out for the Inn of the Three Witches.
In the taproom of the leaning structure, the heroes spot Corinda. She recognizes Beatrice at once, and hurries off to get a round of drinks for the heroes, on the house.
While she's gone, Dechan starts to speak to a man at the bar. He describes Alwina, wondering whether anyone at the Three Witches remembers seeing her. When Corinda hears the discussion, though, she hurries to interrupt. Corinda gives the man a key and invites him to get some rest in one of the taverns three rooms. Though it is only lunch time, the man seems groggy, and he accepts.
After the man is gone, Corinda explains that those aren't questions that should be asked publicly. She says that she did see Alwina, two days ago. At the time, Alwina seemed tired and worried, but even by then she would have been gone from her post for too long to hope for any forgiveness from the Church of Bane.
Corinda doesn't know where Alwina was going, but she can provide two pieces of information:
Beatrice remembers the tales of squat creatures with enormous tongues, dragging people into the sewers. The creatures were said to worship a bloated thing with eyes on its tentacles. She wonders if this might be in some way related to Alwina's search.
She asks Corinda for some more information, and the conversation turns to the newcomers that have been the subject of so much conversation. Corinda reports that these people have very little in common; they are clean or filthy, sane or mad, wealthy or impoverished. They bring a variety of religious tokens, representing every sort of small cult imaginable.
The only thing that unites them is that they have all come to the Enclave, and they all go to the Great Oak before fading into society.
The heroes decide to split up, covering as much territory as possible before sunset. The main quetion seems to be who will go to the temple and talk to Kalromen. There are risks, no matter whom is chosen.
Alliama and Sebastien go to find Kalromen at the temple. Instead, they find Moss Charles, Dechan's mentor, and learn that Kalromen is in New Ghelspad.
Moss listens to Alliama's report, which avoids several details that the heroes have chosen to keep secret for the moment, and he agrees that a little extra vigilance is in order.
Moss says that he will hand pick three squads of Dawnblades and position them around the cemetery.
Alliama and Sebastien go next to the cemetery. It is getting into the afternoon, and with sunset still falling relatively early in the first week of Thaw, the heroes are beginning to feel pressure to get some shovels to the grave of Gaston Menthe.
But Alliama hopes to do more than wait for the others to join them in the cemetery. As a ranger and a druid, and an adherent of the Plant domain, she hopes that the plants of the cemetery might hold more information for them. If cultists have been visiting the dead gravedigger's plot, then the plants may tell her of it.
She finishing casting the prayer to speak with the grass above Menthe's grave, and is struck by a wave of screams. The grass is in agony. It would writhe if it could. All of the grass, all of the trees, all plantlife in the cemetery is screaming.
Stunned, Alliama walks for some distance. The pain becomes less as she leaves the cemetery. Eventually, some distance beyond the gates, the plants return to normal.
While Alliama and Sebastien are in the temple, Beatrice and Kyler also go looking for information. They hope to learn about the current whereabouts of the Stomm Brothers.
Considering all of their resources, Bea thinks that Keynaven might be of aid. His patrol watches over the southern regions of town where the Stomms are best known.
As luck would have it, they find the patrol. Keynaven rushes over to greet Beatrice the way he usually does. He proves a good source of information, telling Bea and Kyler that the Stomms aren't together, for virtually the first time ever. The brothers are working for these newcomers, who have brought a lot of unrest to the Enclave.
Two of the Stomms were last seen acting as bodyguards for four men in purple cloaks. Later, the heroes discuss the tree, and the purple cloaks, and they begin to piece together that the vestige they encountered under Darkshelf Quarry may be growing more and more active. This may be the threat of Tharizdun, becoming real.
The Stomms and their charges were spotted walking around the cemetery, and probably on their way to the Great Oak.
Keynaven has other tales, too. He says that the newcomers bring a new quality of madness to town. One man gathered buckets of canal water and stood at the side of the water drinking. While he drank, he prayed to a fish that he had caught in one of the buckets, demanding that a god named "Blibdoolpoolp" emerge and rain down destruction on all of Creation.
Bea thanks Keynaven for his help. They agree that they will meet and go to lunch sometime.
While their companions are going to the temple and tracking down Keyaven's patrol, Dechan and Carrie go the old lair of the Stomm Brothers.
Dechan goes first, finding that the doors have been chained, but that the locks are not clasped.
He and Carrie step inside, searching first the downstairs and then up. Where the icon of the Lawgiver was originally found, Dechan spots Alwina's armor. Partway to the armor, Alwina herself hides.
The heroes use their contacts and resources to find Alwina.
She is hiding, malnourished and pale. She has a wound that she has bandaged but has not been able to get magically healed.
Dechan heals her immediately, restoring her physical health but leaving her exhausted and addled.
He tells her that an "elderly gentleman" has come to check on her, and that the world is about to end tonight. Alwina is shocked by the former, but the latter is no surprise at all.
With a haunted gaze, Alwina explains that she began some quiet inquiries afer the heroes' encounter with the Withershadow Combine. She has learned quite a bit.
Dechan realizes that the has learned information that can fill in gaps in what Alwina has learned.
Dechan asks Alwina to accompany the heroes, and they plan to reunite after Alwina gets into her armor. Soon the expanded group is together again.
Bea takes this moment to reveal that she has the monster chart.
Sebastien tells everyone about Aji Rain and the Deck of Many Things.
At Alliama's request, Big runs off to talk to Schel and get her take on recent events. The druid has always been ready with a prayer to speak with him, he says. He has no concern that they will be able to communicate.
There is a lot to do, and sunset is drawing ever nearer. One more time, the heroes split into smaller groups.
Alliama and Kyler go to the Blackros Museum to see whether Dr. Radu might be of assistance. Further, Alliama wants to go to the Canal and check the state of Nature there. Keynaven's tales of the madman drinking canal water have stuck with her.
First, Dr. Radu proves exceptionally willing to listen to Kyler. And also to take action if it becomes necessary. He is intrigued by the idea of a vestige seeking to return to active existence. He tells Kyler to go, for there is clearly more that Kyler and Alliama have to do--and Master Radu himself has "conversations" that he must complete before trouble arises. From there, he plans to go to the Great Oak and take in what is happening with the sigil there.
With the museum behind them, Alliama takes Kyler to the waterside. The canal is home to a number of homeless people. More than she remembers. People are not behaving abnormally, and she senses that the water is not tainted.
She talks with a vagrant about the fish, and the newcomers on pilgrimage to the Great Tree. The vagrant has little to offer, but he is unsettled by events going on.
With Alwina in disguise, Dechan escorts her to the Temple of Delios. There, they meet Moss.
Dechan explains the history of the founding of the Enclave, as Alwina explained it to him.
Moss takes this with grim determination. He mentions that there are failsafes in place for events such as these. He tells Dechan to go, and do what must be done. While the heroes are in the sewers--which may well be another plane of existence--Moss will be with the Dawnblades around the cemetery.
Moss understands the importance of keeping a low key on these events. If people within the temple should communicate to agents of the Himmelske Naeve that the heroes are aware of these events, then tragedy could strike.
Before Moss lets Dechan go, though, he takes a moment to speak with Dechan. Moss says that he remembers when Dechan came north, as a means of thanking Darius Androlov for the day that he saved the Vel family. He says that Dechan has done well to make good on that goal.
The last three heroes spend this time at the cemetery. They watch for people who are coming to the cemetery, or who are passing by. They see no one who stands out from the rest, and no sign that the cemetery has been used as a means to access the portal below.
Big comes back with the other heroes at the cemtery.
He tells Alliama Schel is at her wit's end, and the situation there is dire.
The Great Oak is sick. The carving that the goblin made years earlier is visible again, and purple sap has begun to ooze from it.
For the last few days, pilgrims to the oak have been behaving oddly, as well. None have touched the Oak, but more and more have come who speak in strange languages, make gestures before the oak that she doesn't recognize.
Moreover, Schel has had no one to call for help. The animals she has sent to the local druids have not returned, and she cannot leave with an imminent threat growing before her eyes.
It's been over a year since a moot has been held, which were held every season for millennia in the past. Word has it that the Great Druid and the entire Council of Druids left to seek the rest of the Carol of the Bells, and they still have not returned.
Leaving the others to begin digging at Gaston Menthe's grave, Alliama and Big go to the tree.
Crowds of a couple hundred have gathered, staring at the tree and chanting. Not in unison, but in utter chaos. Some pray, some sing, some scream. No two call upon the same entity.
There is no sign of Schel, but they spot Master Radu, off to one side, studying the crowd just as they are.
Alliama tries not to listen, but she cannot resist the need to give Crispin's Oak encouragement. She pulls up her hood, and with Big in tow, walks into the crowd. What she quickly realizes is that many of these "people" are not human at all. There are some with undulations within their robes that cannot be described. There are others who crawl with insects. One man opens his mouth and spews a swarm of flying insects skyward.
She cannot be disuaded. Finally, within thirty feet of the Great Oak, Alliama casts the prayer to speak with the great tree, and she delivers a message without allowing herself to hear the anguish that she knows will come.
As the two slip out of the drooling, chittering, screaming crowd, Big looks up at her. He pays her a compliment unlike any he's said before.
Dechan dug manually, and at his side, a shovel dug at the command of Kyler. Kyler's new, sorcerous powers, have allowed him to focus on other matters while giving his full assistance to the digging, as well.
As Alliama and Big return, and report the horrors they have seen, Dechan finds a metal hatch where a coffin should be. It opens, to reveal a ladder into the sewers that are, in truth, an embodiment of the Plane of Limbo, brought here when the first proteans stumbled upon the ancient prison of Tharizdun.
The tunnels wind, but the heroes find their way. They have begun near enough to the portal, that the powers of Law that bind it keep the tunnels stable. It will be a short walk.
In the sewers, Dechan hears his name called from a shadowy alcove. He tells his friends to wait, and he enters the darkness alone.
A voice speaks from the darkness, calling him, "Grandson."
The being who claims to be Gilean Vel says that he has been aiding Dechan from the beginning. He has made a home in Nightstar Manor in the Feywild. He was able to send Nessa and her friend Olan Whitebeard some time ago, and he has been lending aid discretly through the wizard Cormac.
He has been careful to keep his efforts to the shadows, but now the situation grows urgent.
Gilean says that the Lord of the Undead seeks to offer help to Dechan, and Dechan must refuse him. Orcus has only one goal, and that is to reclaim the bloodline of Vel. Dechan must cast aside any link he has to Orcus, or the old curse will be reinstated, and Dechan and all who follow after him will be lost.
Gilean tells Dechan that he can provide all the help that Dechan and his friends need. The heroes must shun the help of others who seek to subvert them.
And then the shadows are mundane again. Dechan is alone.
The heroes hear chanting before they even see the door that David pulled partly open.
Investigating, they find that four cultists are performing a ritual before the door. Their words come in four languages--Darkonese, Thavian, Balok, and a fourth, watery tongue full of sibilance and unnatural combinations of sounds. The words the heroes can understand call for a breaking down of worldly laws, and an end to the creation of reality.
Two men stand guard around the cultists. They are two of the Brothers Stomm. The men wear their old chainmail from the war, and their poorly kept broadswords are in hand. Each also wears a dinged and stained small shield.
The heroes take advantage of the fact that their targets are distracted. Carrie and Alliama sneak forward. Carrie shoots a forked bolt of lightning through the half dozen men, and then Alliama blasts four of the six with fire that is a combination of elemental and divine energy.
The Stomms react quickly, the cultists moreso, but the wounds they sustained are significant, and will turn the tide of the battle in short order.
The moment the battle is joined, the cultists scream and begin to pantomime filling their beltpouches with something in the air around them. As they do this, the world around the sewer passage begins to fade, become thin, and it appears that another place can be seen beyond.
Reality has already begun to break down in the sewer. The cultists flee in different directions, swimming or running at superhuman speeds and moving in most cases straight through what had only recently been solid stone walls.
The warps in reality seem to connect the sewers to a variety of places: The Blackros Museum, a stone chamber in Rappan Athuk that smells of death, an icy plateau in the Feywild with a rainbow sky, and a fire-blackened plane in the Abyss marching with unholy creatures.
Chaotic and infernal energies flow through the air, transforming a sewer slug, some wasps, and even some spiders into massive, demonic vermin.
Stranger still, the region of the sewer where the sealed portal stands now seems to be within the cemetery itself, as if the sewers are both present and non-existent at the same time, and so the heroes have both climbed underground and remained on the surface simultaneously.
This strange confluence of realities bring the heroes face to face with an impossible variety of foes:
ABYSS: The plane crawls with 31 Dretch, 9 Red Abyssal Maws, 8 Mauve Maws, a Goristro, and 6 Runespiral Demons.
MUSEUM: The museum is being ransacked by 30 Bane Dead under the command of a skeletal Bane Lord and a Biskop of Bane.
RAPPAN ATHUK: The newly minted Ghoul Lord Ignaz stands in his lair with 9 Ghouls.
ICE PLANE: A tribe of Frost Giants wanders the plane.
SEWER: The vermin that rose up include a Slug, 4 Wasps, and 2 Tarantella Spiders.
ENCLAVE: Not to be daunted, the Dawnblades and Glaivers who were in the portion of the cemetery that conjoined with the sewers and these other planes cry their oaths and join the fray on the side of the heroes!
But there is more to this battle than a clash of titanic legions. Reality itself is dissolving, and with it the portal on the Threefold Prison!
As the cultists run, a massive scorpion stinger breaks through the wall next to the sealed door. The wall crumbles, and the heroes can see teeming shapes beyond, inhuman shapes crawling upon one another in order to widen and get through the opening. Worse, the darkness beyond those shapes is not absolute. It is full of stars, some blue, some twinkling orange, and others blinking like eyes.
The heroes do not lose a moment. With the sewer walls largely broken down, they can now see all four of the cultists. The enemy has gained ground, but they are not beyond reach.
Beatrice pulls out the Monster Chart, and she calls upon the greatest of creatures drawn upon it. She calls the Tarrasque. She sends it into the Abyss, and she commands it to kill the cultists.
The great beast reacts quickly as the cultist in the Abyss tries to flee. It reaches down and grabs the thing that looks liked a man in its mighty jaws. After the flame strike and the lightning bolt, the cultist dies almost instantly, but...not before it is revealed that this was no man at all!
As the tarrasque's maw closes around the cultist, he seems to push up from the ground. But the foot remains planted, while the cultist continues to grow larger, tearing out of the robe. The thing revealed is an 8-foot-tall, powerful being seemingly constructed of magical ice. Jagged spurs and spines form icy ridges along its blue-black, humanoid-shaped body, and cold blue light leaks from eyes, mouth, and joints of its glistening black icy form. Its long, muscled arms end in sharp talons, and its mouth opens to reveal rows of wickedly sharp teeth.
Then the tarrasque ends the creature's life, and it explodes in a torrent of ice and cold. Dretches and Abyssal Maws are blasted out of existence. The tarrasque and the goristro remain unfazed, and momentarily glare at one another, ready to square off.
Kyler feels the chaotic energies of the battlefield affecting him, unseating him in time for just a moment. As he forces himself back into his body, he spots something before him, something like an eye staring up from a shallow pool of water. He knows there is someone there, and that he could bring that person to him, even for a short time.
When he reaches through, he finds that the person on the other side of the temporal surge is Cari deKebrenor, friend of The Missed. The eye Kyler saw was the ring of protection Cari wore, and that his daughter Carrie wears to this day. Cari appears, takes one look around, and casually says, "Hey, Kyler. You guys never pluck me across the world for a party, do you?" He lobs a fireball across the battlefield at the first thing Kyler indicates, and then takes a second look at his young friend. "You look good. Whatever you've been doing, it's working!"
A moment later, Cari notices his daughter, who is just about his own age. Having no idea who he sees, he says, "That girl over there is wearing a coat just like mine. Great fashion!"
Kyler does not hesitate or mince words. He tells Cari in no uncertain terms that the woman across the battlefield is his daughter, and that he must protect her.
The cultist in the Blakros Museum is fully revealed to Kyler.
As the hero stops this cultist, it turns about, and its robe catches fire even as water boils out of the cloth. The vaguely humanoid creature revealed as the robe falls in dwindling ashes defies reason. It seems to hold its shape due to a durable, flexible shell. Inside the shell bubbles fluid, as if it is full of water. Burning within the fluid, though, are numerous fires that seem neither to consume nor be extinguished by the water.
When the first cultist died, his pouch flew off to one side. Bea spotted that and shouted to her friends that they must get the four pouches.
Alliama takes the shape of an eagle, and she soars into the reach of the goristro, the tarrasque, and any number of minor demons to get it. As she ducks and dodges, she hears a cheer that she has not heard since she was a child. A swarm of faeries, sprites and pixies mostly, dive into the fray, stinging any enemies that try to attack her. While they do little damage, they keep Alliama safe from a full volley of attacks that would have otherwise found her!
Alliama grabs that pouch in her talons and tears it open as she returns to the battle in the cemtery. As the pouch is opened, the conjunction with the Abyss is ended. The demonic hordes are banished once again to their planar damnation, even as a nalfeshnee and flight of vrocks appeared to join in the battle.
Only three pouches remain - and the heroes believe that they see a path to victory!
Dechan hears the voice of Bartholomew for the first time in months, speaking within his mind. "With your medallion," Bartholomew says, "you have the power to control all the undead on this field. Reach out and embrace the power to control the darkness, and you can end this battle before it begins." Dechan feels that the promise is true; the power within the medallion, at this moment, will allow him to control all of the undead he sees and command them to attack the foes he chooses.
It is said that Kyler Valorn became The Wanderer, traveling with a cart of mysterious, often eldritch goods across time and space. Sometimes, he makes gifts of items that do not make sense for many years, even generations. And sometimes he simply leaves an item in a place where it will be found at just the right moment. Beatrice stumbles, and her hand swipes across just one such item. It is a wand, brimming with power; with it, she senses, she could destroy any enemy on this field...or teleport to any spot she wishes.
She targets the cultist who fled into the icy plateau, and destroys him. His pouch falls inside the corridors of Rappan Athuk.
As this cultist is destroyed, his hood falls back to reveal a skull. The smell of fish, brine, and rotted flesh are prevalent, and bits of seaweed can be seen dangling out of the robe where it is frayed or torn. The cultist brings up a bloated fist, where it now holds a disused cutlass. Its eyes are bright pin points of crimson within otherwise empty sockets. The undead pirate wears a terrible, frozen grin on its face that make it look both gruesomely affable and chillingly insane. It is ever so slightly transparent.
Carrie stands not far away, having teleported to face the cultist, on the icy plateau but then losing him in a sudden rush of ghouls. She sees the undead thing collapse, though, and she prepares to teleport out of the ghouls to grab the pouch.
An old wizard wanders onto the battlefield. He has gone unseen for such a long time that most do not recognize him. He is Finnias, the great abjurer who erected many of the wards that defended the Enclave after the departure of The Missed. Today, he becomes known as he finishes casting a powerful abjuration that dismisses a powerful demonic force--the giant slug--from the battle.
Dechan has saved Big's life. The big cat had been pierced through the side by one of the giant wasps, and only Dechan's intervention kept him from dying.
Then the quicksilver boots carried him across the sewer and into the icy plateau. Behind, sheltered by a mantle of divine protection that Dechan erected, Alwina clambers after another cultist in the cemetery.
But, just as he did not leave her without protection, Alwina has not forgotten him. Dechan feels a hand on his arm. He hears Alwina's voice. "I can carry you to any spot you wish on a zephyr," she tells him. "Name the spot you want to reach, and I will carry you there."
Dechan declares that he wishes to go to the pouch of the fallen undead cultist. He arrives in Rappan Athuk, off balance and scrambling for the pouch before Ignaz can turn and attack him.
As the battle rages, more and more enemies arrive to balance the flow of allies.
MUSEUM: The Withershadow Combine materialize through a sleep and heat haze, standing atop the platform where Beatrice first saw them. Four dommers of Bane stand at the foot of the steps. They call out to the biskop, demanding that he bring the pouch to them, for Bane.
ICE PLANE: More Frost Giants rush onto the plane.
SEWER: The first creatures from beyond break through the wall and set to destroying the sealed door. These are creatures of raw evil. They are proto-demons with no hint of humanity in their being. These are the creatures who dwelt in what is now the Abyss when Tharizdun brought the shard of evil into our reality. They are the first creatures of evil, and they seek to finish what the Chaotic proteans began.
The Great Oak glows purple, casting a violet radiance over all the Enclave, and all aspects of this battle.
An amber glow meets it from Tranaihar, in the true center of the Enclave, somehow towering over the cemetery while it also glows from a walled compound to the south.
Someone rings a bell from the temple, and all people of the Enclave are joined in a spell of communal life force. The heroes feel a boost, but they know that the creatures in this battle could just as easily drain the life forces of everyone in town.
Big opens his eyes, restored beyond the healing that kept him from dying. The white panther leaps into the air, tearing apart the giant wasp that nearly killed him.
Carrie utters the word of her teleportation spell and travels to Dechan's side. She rips open the pouch, and Rappan Athuk is broken from the conjunction. Almost a dozen ghouls are left standing in the icy Feywild plateau, but Ignaz leaves with the Dungeon of Graves, because he never stepped foot out of it.
Dechan and Carrie look up in time to meet the charge of almost a half-dozen frost giants. The cleaving axes strike again and again, delivering what would be lethal blows, but for the magic of the Zuffenoft Protocol. All the heroes feel the jolt of these attacks, but none fall.
The third cultist did not last long, but as its body broke down into water and embering flames, the biskop of Bane commands the skeletal Bane Lord to command its troops to collect the pouch. In regimented order, the skeletons form a line, handing the pouch one to the next until it is delivered to the hands of the Biskop himself.
The biskop takes his first steps towards the platform where the Withershadow Combine waits, and that is when Kyler's invisible servant strikes. More powerful than a mundane invisible servant, this spirit is capable of digging with a shovel. It is more than capable of ripping open a pouch held in the hands of a priest of Bane who is unaware that it even exists!
The pouch tears open, and the conjunction with the Blackros Museum--including the intrusion of the Withershadow Combine from the Nightmare Lands--is ended.
In the last instants, as the conjunction ends, a hail of crossbow bolts sink into the skeletons surrounding Kyler and Cari. A beastly roar follows, and Kyler spots a pack of minotaurs as they fire giant crossbows. Kyler realizes that these minotaurs were aiming for him, disinterested in the damage they might cause to anyone around him.
Then the Blakros, the Withershadow Combine, and the minotaurs are all gone. Kyler stands in the cemetery with Cari deKebrenor, and there are battles to be fought on the south side of the field.
Kyler picks up Cari and flies with him towards the mausoleum where Alwina battles the last cultist. As they fly, Kyler points at the battle in the Feywild. With Rappan Athuk banished, Carrie and Dechan stand on an open, icy field, with a dozen frost giants swarming around them.
Cari hurls another fireball, incinerating the frost giants striking Dechan and his daughter, Carrie.
Carrie looks over and says, "That man with Kyler is wearing a coat that is just like my dad's! Great fashion!"
Moments later, the battle and all its conjunctions--including Cari deKebrenor--will be ended.
Alwina caught the last cultist a minute ago.
The moment this cultist was touched, its body writhed, wriggled, and whipped about inside its robes. Its face peered out of its hood with serpentine, yellow eyes. Its flesh was the purple of a fresh bruise. It had no arms or legs--Impossibly, it ripped free of the robe, a snake as thick as a man's thigh and at least ten feet in length. A nage!
The naga tried to mesmerize Alwina, but her iron will proved to be too much for it. Then it tried to bite her, but Dechan's mantle of protection kept her safe.
Now, Alliama looks about the battlefield, trying to find the right route to get to the last pouch. Kyler has just landed next to the naga, but the thing has the pouch in its coils, and for now Kyler struggles to get his bearings, get a good route to it.
Alliama moves, and as she does, Big appears at her side, leaping and swiping at the face and fangs of the naga as it threatens her. In a stunning display, Alliama is able to move unhindered into the naga's coils and grab the pouch...and rip it open.
The heroes are left standing in the cemetery. The section of sewer vanishes from the surface world as the heroes open the fourth pouch.
The purple glow is gone from the Great Oak. There is no sign of the lotus tree that had towered overhead.
Gaston Menthe's grave is unbroken, as if never dug up.
The end of reality has been averted.
A sage writes, "Darius and Kalromen prayed to the Morninglord for the location of their new settlement. No one ever questioned why Delios placed them here. This, then, must be why. We live in the greatest bastion for Law and Good in the Lands of Mist. If the Enclave had been located anywhere else, then all life would have been snuffed out the night of March 29, in the 765th year of the Barovian Calendar."
When the tear in reality opened across the Enclave, there were those who sought to run to the temple. And there were those who sought to run to the monument of The Missed.
The people of the Enclave know that the Fist of Ragnarok will arise when the the need arises, and he will once again do battle to defend his chosen world. When the Great Oak shed it violet light, and reality began to grow thin, there were those who called out to Darius Androlov to return and save them.
But, when the Heirs to The Missed's legacy stood strong, another, kind and gentle voice met those who had feared the worst. The elders, the wise ones who had seen the sort of heroes who now occupy the Enclave,said to them, "Darius was not needed."
A new generation has arisen.