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Saerryc

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Saerryc last won the day on July 8

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About Saerryc

  • Birthday 08/24/1990

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  1. OH SHIT this is tonight, I have to go buy booze
  2. limeade (lime juice + sugar + water) + strawberries + rum, combined in a blender
  3. @Tiffymew@Siscia@Nexius@KyuDragonair@talianiara@Zola Gonna be sending around the link to the campaign page on DNDBeyond shortly. Thanks to Kyu’s generous offer to share his source materials with us, you’ll now have access to the stuff you need to create your characters, without having to buy anything yourself. We will be using the following settings in the character builder: You can leave everything else below that on the default. Race: Under “Filter Race Source(s),” stick to Basic Rules, Player’s Handbook, or Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide unless you’ve already spoken to me about something else Class: Any; you’ll be starting from level 3 Abilities: Set the generation method to “point buy” and pick whatever abilities you want (if you’re new, check with me to make sure you’re picking appropriate ability scores for your class) Description: Choose a background, fill out your physical and personal characteristics, and then write as much as you want for the other sections (except for “lifestyle,” which you can skip). Try to write around a paragraph for the backstory; you don't need your entire life story, but recent past would be helpful, and at a minimum, you should have some idea of why your character is interested in becoming an adventurer. The info in this section may potentially be used in future plot hooks. Equipment: Pick "equipment" and then check off whatever your preferences are from among the equipment options. As a reminder, you shouldn’t consider anything finalized until after Session Zero, and you don’t need to make a character sheet at all until the week after that. (If you’re new, we can help you set things up if you want.) The main reason I’m posting this now is because I know many of you are going to fire up the character builder the second you get the campaign invite link.
  4. As someone whose character premise for the last campaign was literally “I’m gonna play a student so it’ll make sense when I don’t know what’s going on,” I totally get where you’re coming from being a bit nervous about being inexperienced. That said, I want to echo what Siscia said about our intentions to make this game new player friendly. You won’t be the only person who’s new, and even the people who are experienced will likely be on a class or sub-class they haven’t played before and a new platform, so everyone’ll be doing some learning. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
  5. Hi everyone! I’d like to give an update with more information about the character creation process and timeline for getting started, in response to questions I’ve been receiving. First of all, though, I think this is an appropriate time to make it official who will be in our group (at least initially). In: @Tiffymew, @Siscia, @Nexius, @KyuDragonair, @talianiara, @Zola Waitlist/Backup: @Obsidian Newt, @Cowboy I’m excited and flattered that there’s been so much interest, and I regret not being able to include everyone who’s expressed interest (or who might express interest in the future), but I’ve received quite strong warnings about the difficulties of overly large groups, and so, to keep things manageable for myself as an inexperienced DM, have made the decision to give the group size a hard cap of 6. I also wanted to announce who’s in now, rather than leaving things open any longer, to try to avoid a situation where someone spends weeks thinking about character ideas and getting increasingly hyped, only to find out they’ve been placed on the waitlist. That said, let me say some more now about the character guidelines we’ll be using. We will generally be sticking to content from the Player Handbook, Xanathar’s, Tasha’s, and the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. (If you have your eye on something more obscure, let me know and I’ll have a look at it.) There are no additional race or class restrictions aside from that. We’ll be using point buy for skill allocation and starting from level 3. I’ll ask that you include a paragraph or so about your character’s backstory when you make your character sheet. If you’re new and some of that sounds like gibberish to you, don’t worry; we’ll help. The first thing to do is figure out what sort of character you want to play. You may already have an idea in mind for a premise, but if you don’t, a good place to start is browsing through the options that will be available to you on DNDBeyond.* Once you join the campaign page there, you’ll have access to the material referenced above without having to buy anything yourself. You’re also encouraged to come chat about your ideas and brainstorming process in the RP channel on Discord; in particular, we can help you narrow down the many class and sub-class possibilities to find something that’s a good fit for your narrative interests and/or desired playstyle. (*I will be sending you all links to the campaign page once I’ve created it.) As I mentioned in the previous post, our first meeting will be a Session Zero on Wednesday, July 28, which we’ll use for introductory planning purposes before we actually start playing. You don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) have anything finalized by that point. However, one of the things I’d like to do at Session Zero is make sure everyone is okay with the team comp, so you should come in with at least a rough premise for your character. (You might also come in with more than one, if you’d like to get help picking.) You’re welcome to put together a draft character sheet beforehand if you want, but you don’t have to. You’ll have additional time afterwards to finish designing your character. I’ll ask that you finish your character sheet by the following Wednesday, August 4. I’m going to host a tutorial that day to familiarize everyone with AboveVTT, the online tabletop platform we’re be using, since I think it’s a new platform for most if not all of us; you’ll need to have a character sheet created by then in order to be able to use AboveVTT. Afterwards, I’ll look over everyone’s characters to make sure I don’t spot any issues, and also to make sure I familiarize myself with the mechanics that will be most relevant to our group (so as to hopefully be prepared for anything that’s potentially confusing, like the rogue sneak attack mechanics). I’ll also look over the descriptions you’ve written and potentially ask clarification questions to help you further develop your characters’ personalities and backstories. Then, we’ll start our adventures with Session One on August 11. Please be in touch with any questions you may have, and as I mentioned earlier, feel free to use the Discord channel to help brainstorm character ideas. I'll post again with more details about the DNDBeyond page, once it's set up and ready. I'm looking forward to playing with you soon!
  6. Yeah, one of the advantages of episodic storytelling is that it can accommodate some player turnover without it being a big deal (as long as I know in advance who's going to be there), so if you're on the fence, I'd say go for it! Worst thing that can happen is that you don't like it, but in that case, at least you'll know you tried.
  7. The city of Neverwinter in the Forgotten Realms was largely destroyed by a volcanic eruption fifty years ago and lay in ruins for decades afterwards, but now it’s on the rise. Lord Protector Dagult Neverember has sealed the chasm that rent the city and poured resources into the rebuilding effort. The High Road connecting the city to its neighbors is restored, and new stores and workshops are opening every week as people flock to the city, drawn by the land up for grabs and the opportunity to start anew. The new Neverwinter is, in particular, full of opportunities for adventurers, whether they seek regular employment escorting merchant caravans or risky but rewarding work clearing out the remaining dangerous corners of the city. There are also rumors of treasures hidden in the city itself and the surrounding area, waiting to be claimed by any with the skill and ambition to find them. It is here that you’ll seek to make your mark, whatever that may be. Will you become heroes known for saving people from deadly monsters? Treasure hunters willing to brave dangerous ruins in pursuit of valuable artifacts? Larger-than-life characters who charm everyone you meet with your goofy antics? Ruthless mercenaries seeking wealth and power wherever you can find them? Or dinner for some forgotten horror lurking at the bottom of a dark cavern? Will you bring whimsy to those who encounter you; will your story be told as inspiration and legend to those who come after you; or will you leave a trail of terrible destruction in your wake? I hope you’ll join me as we find out together. Meeting time: Wednesdays, 8:30 to approx. 11:30 U.S. eastern time (GMT-4 during daylight savings time) End time may vary somewhat from week to week, depending on what we do each week, but will definitely not go past midnight Structure: Relatively episodic to begin with, and then potentially expanding into something longer-form if we have a stable group and we’re having fun. (This is the same structure that Cowboy’s campaign used.) The individual episodes will be based on various short unofficial modules found via reddit, blogs, patreons, and dmsguild, but I’ll be stringing them together to build off each other in a sensible way, and I’ll start to introduce more homebrew adventure design as I become more comfortable DMing. Requirements: A (free) account at DNDbeyond (https://www.dndbeyond.com/) AboveVTT browser extension Chrome: https://tinyurl.com/Chrome-AboveVtt Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/abovevtt/ Ability to participate in Discord voice chat More details on character creation to follow once we have a group together (we’ll be going over character creation at Session 0), though, in case it matters to anyone, I’ll mention now that we’ll be sticking to Forgotten Realms races. FAQ I’ve never played before! Can I still sign up? Yes, absolutely! Around half of the players in the previous campaign, including myself, had never played before, and we had a ton of fun. We’ll be happy to help you out as you start thinking about your character and getting things set up. What’s the difference between this group and what Sojourner is going to be running? Which group should I sign up for? First of all, feel free to choose based on your availability (are Wednesday or Sunday evenings better for you?). Beyond that, some differences worth noting: Soj is using a homebrew setting, whereas I’m using an established official one This campaign will have a more episodic structure, which might give you freedom to have more different kinds of adventures, but will probably also result in a less coherent story Soj is making finding out your character’s backstory part of the mystery, whereas I’m giving you more freedom to write your own backstory The two campaigns are totally separate (this isn't a shared-universe thing), so I recommend giving both premises a look and choosing based on whichever is a better fit for your own preferences and interests. Do I need to be able to make it every Wednesday? No one’s going to be offended if you have to miss a session on occasion, but having a consistent group makes both balancing and narrative easier to do, so it’s strongly recommended that you be able to attend regularly. If you have a schedule that would allow you to play only occasionally, the one-shots and mini-campaigns Soj will be running in the future are likely a better fit for you, since you’ll be able to sign up specifically for what you’re able to make. When will we start playing? It’ll depend on how quickly people sign up and how much time you want to think over your characters, but I’d like to aim to have a Session 0 (where we’ll meet to talk about planning, expectations, and character ideas) on July 28 and then start playing two weeks afterwards. Interested? Post below! If we end up with more people interested than can fit in the party, I’ll take people in sign-up order and then set up a waiting list. Also feel free to comment with any questions you may have, either here or on discord. Current Status: We have our group, but you can still sign up for the waitlist Anyone who hasn't had a chance to play before will be moved to the top of the waitlist so that you have the first shot at getting in if someone drops. Also make sure you take a look at Soj's recruitment post, since he is still collecting interest for mini-campaigns and one-shots.
  8. Excerpt from Cedric’s Journal [Epilogue – Part 2] [Some time later] I’ve been procrastinating this for months at this point, but it’s time for me to finally draw this journal to a close. I don’t like the idea of the story of my life being essentially over at age 22, and I’ve already bought another journal for the next chapter—but, loathe as I am to admit it, this is clearly an ending in at least some respects, and it’d be a shame to fill so many pages and then let the story of Aureon’s Chosen trail off without a sufficiently thoughtful conclusion. So this is that—or my best attempt, anyway. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my return to Morgrave—I wasn’t sure how much of it was even still standing at this point—but Anozahl was happy to see me, just as Nion told me he’d be. After some discussion, we agreed that it was a good idea for me to take on Prof. Nanal Dhuma from the Arcane History department as a second advisor, since what I wanted to do was really more of a historical text than a traditional thesis on evocation. Anozahl said—and I think he was right—that even if I already knew what I was going to write, it would be useful to have her on board for networking purposes. And so, for the next few weeks, I worked on my thesis. With my hundreds of pages of notes, it wasn’t too difficult, and after everything else I’ve faced, it wouldn’t surprise me if no student has ever felt less stressed while writing a thesis. It did require some additional work to get into an appropriate format; I couldn’t just submit this journal and be done with it. There was information to fill in that I didn’t initially write about, in particular regarding the technical details of a lot of the magic I learned. There were also many parts that I decided my advisors didn’t really need to know about, such as some of the intra-party drama or the stuff with Delphine or the passages that were just me being anxious. I also left out the part where I stopped casting fire spells, fearing it might provoke Anozahl to light the manuscript on fire in retaliation. Since finishing, I’ve been working on some follow-up projects based on my adventures. I think I can get two books and a few additional articles out of everything we’ve done. The first book is the history of Dramul’s campaign to devour the world and our own campaign to avert her—in other words, the contents of this journal, what I wrote my thesis on. Obviously, the massive battles that were taking place by the end impacted a lot of people, and there’s a clear, immediate demand for someone to explain what the hell happened. Already there are all sorts of political and religious opportunists jumping to attribute the disasters to every scapegoat they can think of, most of them complete nonsense. My manuscript will be the definitive account of events—or at least it should be, assuming I can convince people I was actually there. I’m hoping that going through the academic publishing system will help bolster my credibility; this is part of why I wanted to go back and graduate. Like when I wrote my thesis, though, there is some re-writing that needs to be done before this project is complete, to reflect the fact that the intended audience is different than when it was for my thesis. The second book project is an expanded history of the original Chosen, our predecessors. An Anthology of Heroes and the Evils They Fought is a book very dear to my heart, but the actual information in it is pretty scant; we’ve learned so much more during our adventures, and I’ve learned even more by translating the journal sections of Kirin’s tome. (For example, did you know that Kirin had an aberrant dragonmark? It gave him so much anxiety!) This project is obviously far less urgent than the first one, but the predecessors deserve way more academic attention than most of them have gotten. They were complicated people who definitely fucked some things up, but we owe them so much. As for the articles, well, I’ve learned all sorts of new magic over the last year or so. Some of it, like the Wish spell, is documented but rare, but there are other magical discoveries that I don’t think anyone besides Kirin and I have ever used. That said, I’ll have to do some testing to figure out what was specifically bestowed upon me by Aureon and what’s at least in principle replicable by others. I would like to save at least some of Kirin’s work, if possible, to at least partially atone for how we—probably pointlessly—burned down his tower. I intend to write my books as scholarly history manuscripts; my main goal is to document the knowledge I’ve gained, to share it with others and prevent it from being lost to time. I’m leaving it to Top of Bottle to identify and tell the stories—that’s why he joined us in the first place, after all. There’s plenty of room for both my academic work and his dramatic storytelling; the former does a better job of capturing facts and the latter a better job with emotion, but both are clearly important. I made him a copy of my notes before we parted, and as he clutched my leg in a tight hug, teary-eyed, he told me about all the stories he wants to tell—the romance of a shy scholar saving a young girl only to find out she was a princess of a magical scholarly kingdom, the adventures of the twin pirate kings who sailed the ten seas, a tale of the feywild half-elf who restored a land of the dead to life, the escapades of some of the greatest thieves in history who even stole from the gods. I think our stories are in good hands. I wrote my thesis at my old spot in the Morgrave library, partly out of nostalgia and partly because I still really love that library. But unlike the old days, I could easily work there during the day and then teleport back to Trolanport to hang out with Delphine in the evening. Since graduating, I’ve been working in an office that’s been kindly set up for me at House Cannith. I’ve given the owl Nion gave me a perch on a shelf so that I only have to turn my head a bit to feel my friend’s presence in my life. This is who I want to be now—surrounded by books when I want to be, but without having to completely isolate myself; able to do important research and writing, but also able to step away from it for a time to hang out with the people I care about. (I should back up a bit and explain: before we parted, Nion made me a homunculus in the shape of an owl using his Wish magic. I made him a miniature beagle in return, and we’ve been using them to keep in touch. Although we can only actually communicate when we’re on the same plane, I consider this owl one of my greatest treasures because it makes me feel like a very good friend is always there with me, watching over me. I think Nion feels similarly. He’s gotten the beagle a cape.) Anyway, I want to wrap up the material from this past adventure before going out and starting a new one, but I don’t intend to stay at this desk writing forever. I want to learn from Kirin’s mistakes and make sure I live a little. (And I surely don’t ever want to let my head get so far up my ass that I write a fucking cookbook.) I still want to explore the possibilities of the world, but I’m no longer so naive as to think that I can do all that from a library, even a great one. I have to go places and, yes, even meet people. I think I’m done with gods at this point, but there’s so much else to do. I remember all those times when we went someplace impressive but I couldn’t really enjoy it because I was too anxious and we were under too much pressure. Now, those anxieties and pressures are relieved, and I want to make the most of it—ideally, with my friends there with me. I want to go and look for exotic birds with Nion; I want to explore cool nature places with Siscia; I want to travel with Top of Bottle to find places and people with interesting stories; I want to go with Shaper to see impressive works of artifice. (I also want to visit all the world’s best libraries, though I’ll admit that this desire is less new than some of the others.) And, of course, I want to take Delphine on as many of these adventures as her House Cannith obligations allow. Maybe I’ll even end up making some new friends, now that I know I can. There are so many horrible things we saw and experienced that I’ll never be able to forget—Lower Sharn at its peak of corruption as we were delivering Aureon’s Bloom; the forest I burned myself, and the one I failed to prevent from being burned in Aerenal; Charybdis’s death, or Duriel’s, or Maeric’s, or Connah’s; the moment all the shit our predecessors saw was delivered to us all via dream; pretty much everything having to do with Ava; etc. There are important lessons that I learned from some of these, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t go back and reverse them if I could. Still, now that we’ve won, it’s like a giant weight upon us has lifted, and it’s much easier to recognize and appreciate the good parts. In particular, looking back over these pages, it’s crazy to see how much I’ve grown. I started out panic-casting Blur at the first sign of trouble and getting bitten by a snake while searching pointlessly for spell components I already had in my pouch; now I’m teleporting across the continent, making simulacrums of myself, blowing up entire battlefields with brilliant sunlight or with fireballs that do cold damage, surviving after a battle against a god, and even occasionally casting abjuration magic. But, also, I’m not totally useless in social situations anymore, I have friends who I can talk to and support and get support from, someone can hug me and I won’t have no idea what to do (even if they’re way shorter than I am), and I’ve found myself in a relationship beyond my wildest dreams. Ever since Siscia gained the ability to visit and mess around with people’s dreams, from time to time I’ve idly wondered what my perfect dream might look like. There’s one that keeps returning to me—or, at any rate, one basic premise, with some variations depending on my mood. It starts off in my room at the old guild hall in Sharn, though, since this is a dream, I allow myself to imagine it bigger than it actually was, with space for more bookshelves and a couch. Sometimes Delphine is on the couch, reading; other times, she’s downstairs. If I go down myself, everybody’s there. Lionel and Nion are arguing about capes, or maybe Lionel is bickering with the phoenixes while Nion takes care of Quill and Talon. Top of Bottle is sitting atop Duriel’s shoulders while they both play music, or perhaps scurrying across the ceiling while Duriel looks on fondly. Siscia is transformed into some animal for some reason, or maybe she’s in her normal form, passing out drinks and chatting with Euphy and Kyonwe. Scylla’s with her parents and brother, who look more content then I remember ever actually seeing them, complaining to them about all the “magic bullshit” she’s always having to deal with. Eli and his brothers are boisterously comparing their muscles; Shaper is in a corner, diligently working on some project. Pif is sneaking around, trying to nab waffles from people’s plates and treasures from their pockets while they’re not looking. Leon is at his normal spot, and Maeric and Connah are sitting with him, Maeric bragging about how much damage he did in his last battle, Connah cheerfully offering to help with whatever problem Leon’s worried about. Sometimes I join everyone; other times I don’t go downstairs, feeling overwhelmed by all the people and preferring to stay in my room and work. But even then, I can faintly hear their voices, and it warms me to know that my friends are all just on the other side of the door and down the stairs, and I can go see them when I’m ready to be social, and they’re there for me if I need them. This isn’t the only dream I have; in my actual dreams, I dream of libraries and birds and Delphine and other things, as I mentioned above. But that this is what I daydream of now, I think, shows how far I’ve come, and what’s important to me now, and what I’ve gained that I’ll never forget.
  9. Excerpt from Cedric’s Journal [Epilogue – Part 1] Before meeting Delphine, I’d assumed I wasn’t the sort of person who would ever end up in that sort of relationship. It was less that I was disinterested and more that it just didn’t feel like the kind of thing that could ever happen to me. I’d be walking across campus and idly notice that someone was pretty, or I’d see couples together at a tavern on a holiday and feel a mild pang of jealousy, or something like that, and then I’d continue onward by myself and go back to my research as soon as possible. It was just a different world than mine, something I didn’t even really find it worthwhile to dream about. The idea of trying to introduce myself to someone and talk to them was unfathomable. I didn’t even really have any friends at that point. The mission where we were sent to rescue Delphine was just another mission to me at the time. I didn’t feel anything special toward her. I wasn’t even the first person to try to pull her out of that cauldron or whatever it was where the cultists were keeping her. I tried to smile reassuringly at her (though who knows what my expression actually looked like), mainly to try to escape having to actually say anything. I didn’t expect to ever see her again after that. When she reappeared a while later looking for me, I was astonished and mortified. I would have thought it was some sort of trap if Lionel hadn’t confirmed otherwise. I wished the ground would swallow me up as I felt the weight of everyone’s eyes on me. I had absolutely no idea what to do or say. My sheer panic was apparent from the fact that I thought it was a good idea to hide in the library of all places, as if that wasn’t the first place someone would go to look for me. Once the initial shock had worn off, I realized what must have happened. That someone might have a crush on her rescuer—on the person who had literally pulled her out of danger—actually made a certain amount of sense, upon reflection. But her declarations of “love,” heartfelt as they might have been, were clearly misguided, to say the least. She must have constructed a mental image of the brave adventurer who’d saved her and fallen in love with that—but there was no way this mental image bore any resemblance to what I was really like. We’d barely even talked to each other that first time we met; she knew nothing about me. If she actually spent time with me, if she insisted on having me meet her family, they’d all see how clumsy and awkward and socially incompetent I was. I wasn’t even that good of a wizard at that point; I don’t think I was even able to cast fireball yet when we first rescued Delphine. Delphine, on the other hand, was pretty and from a powerful family—and as I came to learn, she was also smart and capable and accomplished. Whatever expectations she had of me, there was no way I’d be able to live up to them; I knew the only way this could end was in disappointment and embarrassment. Then the guild got involved and made everything worse by turning this into an opportunity to explore an alliance between the guild and House Cannith. I feared that, in effect, they’d just added another group of people I was going to be letting down. These were the kinds of thoughts I was stewing in for the entire time it took us to get to Trolanport. I felt like I was headed to my execution—I literally felt better when we were on our way to the Mournland to face Dramul (at least we were stronger then, and we had a god helping us, and we at least sort of had a plan) than I did when we were on our way to Trolanport to face Delphine and her family. I could only hope that I wouldn’t fuck over the guild too badly and that the humiliation I’d inevitably end up facing wouldn’t be too public and dramatic. My companions were of absolutely no help whatsoever while I was trying to deal with all this. They just thought the whole thing was amusing. Siscia, the first person in the guild who I’d come to think of as genuinely my friend, was the worst of anyone, never missing an opportunity to tell random strangers about my “famous” “girlfriend” or joke about our “upcoming wedding.” She didn’t mean it maliciously—she was honestly excited for me—but neither she nor the others took seriously how worried I was. If this had all happened later on, I could have gone to Nion, but this was before I’d gotten close enough to him to feel like that was an option. At the time, I still really didn’t have anyone I could talk to. That’s probably why I ended up opening up to Delphine like I did in the menagerie that night. I didn’t mean to—I started out just trying to convey, as gently as possible, that a marriage alliance between us was a bad idea—but once I started talking, everything just came spilling out, and before I knew it I was laying bare all my insecurities in front of her. I was afraid to even look at her by the time I was done. But she didn’t go cold or laugh at me or whatever else I was expecting. She started talking about the pressures she was facing from her family, which also wanted the alliance, and how these pressures—and the fact that she’d thought I was cute—had led to her talking herself into trying to rush things. She admitted that she didn’t really want to get married right away either—but because it felt like too much of a rush, not because there was anything wrong with me. She said I was selling myself short and described what she saw in me—how, maybe I wasn’t perfect, but I kept going into danger to save people, and I’d proven myself not incapable in the confrontation with the shadow-kid. Maybe I wasn’t an expert socialite, but I was smart—she reminded me of the value House Cannith placed on scholars and research, how that was something she herself was deeply involved in. She knew I was shy, but she didn’t think it made me incompetent; she thought it made me cute. We ended up deciding that we didn’t need to get married to go through with the alliance—but the conversation felt more like a beginning for the two of us than an ending. In retrospect, that was very obviously the turning point where I first started actually liking her, though I didn’t recognize it at the time, thinking that we’d just agreed to be friends. But how could I not like her after that? I had been so worried about her finding out who I really was, and it had happened, and instead of rejecting me, she’d helped show me what there was to like about myself. In a way, it felt almost like she had rescued me. (Not to mention, as I learned more about her on that trip, it became apparent that we had a lot more in common than I’d initially thought. We’d been told at first that she was a “princess,” but that term hadn’t done a great job of conveying what House Cannith actually was—I’d been afraid of Delphine having a misleading image of me in her head, without realizing that I was doing the same thing for her. In particular, she turned out to be way more of a nerd than I was expecting—I mean that in the most positive and affectionate sort of way.) Since then, she’s come through numerous times to support me, even from far away in Trolanport. She was the one who sent me the book from which we first found out about the predecessors, and reading about them and seeing just how much they resembled us—this was before we found out about the reincarnation shit—cheered me up and gave me hope at a time when I’d been panicking over the squirrel dream and our group was barely holding itself together. When things were looking dark after the disaster in Lower Sharn, she helped brainstorm how we could pose our quest as a research question, making what had felt like an impossible task seem suddenly doable. She arranged the trip to Aerenal, which was a pretty unmistakable vote of confidence in me, given my misgivings about what I’d find at Kirin’s tower. She’s always believed in me, and in doing so has made it easier for me to believe in myself. And how could I not be moved by all the genuine affection she’s poured over me? The way she smiled at me as we left Trolanport for the first time, the way she broke down in relief when I called her after our timeskip and she realized I wasn’t dead, the way she jumped into my arms after we returned from Aerenal—these are all things I’ll never forget. It took me a while, but it finally began to dawn on me that this wasn’t a mistake; it was real. At the same time, I was finding myself more and more impressed by all the things we’ve seen her do. She was so helpful when we were trying to research the artifacts. (My own “research” mostly consisted of stumbling into things via divine intervention; most of the actual research that got done was hers.) But beyond that, she’s great at networking and social coordination and string-pulling—she’s so deft at navigating social situations where I’d be clueless or intimidated. She coordinated the whole Aerenal trip, including securing us the airship and the escort and the permission to go there; she took a leading role in helping protect Trolanport after the Battle of Sharn and during the battle at the end. I have much more self-confidence than I did when we started our adventures, but there’s still so much I can learn from her. I’m still a bit blown away to have that opportunity. But instead of filling me with dread, like it did in the beginning, now it fills me with joy. As we travel through the Mournland, she’s been flirting with me and teasing me pretty relentlessly. Like, if we ever accidentally touch while we’re setting up camp or something, she’ll give me a coy look and then ask, mock-shyly, if this is the part where we kiss. She’s read a ton of romance novels, and she really gets a kick out of playing out those tropes. She loves making me blush. I don’t mind. I’m pretty sure this is her way of gently and patiently drawing me out and making me more comfortable with romance and affection. It’s working, and she’s clearly having a lot of fun with it. To be honest, I am, too. I realize the irony in having started off completely panicking over the idea of an engagement, changed my mind, and ended up eagerly planning the same engagement myself. But all of our intervening experiences have made a huge difference. We’ve gone from barely knowing each other to having worked together to win a war and seal a god. We’ve grown so much in the meantime, both individually and together. And now, this isn’t something that feels in any way rushed or forced upon us; it’s something we’ve chosen for ourselves.
  10. Excerpt from Cedric’s Journal [Session Notes 6/16] We waited for a moment to see if anything else would happen, but nothing did, and only then did I begin to dare to believe that it was really over. I impulsively hugged Top of Bottle, who was the nearest to me. He hugged me back, letting himself collapse into my arms, clearly in need of some support after all he’d been through. I tried to give it to him as best I could. Meanwhile, Siscia dropped to her knees and began examining Connah, who looked like a soulless husk. She wasn’t breathing, and nothing happened when she tried to feed her a goodberry. It seemed likely that her spirit had been totally consumed. After some brief discussion, Scylla dissolved her pocket dimension and returned us to where we’d departed the Mournland, at the top of the Glowing Chasm. We wanted to see what was going on in the aftermath of the battle. The landscape was still dead, but already we could see the beginnings of change. The sulfur smell was less than it had been before, and the fog was totally gone. We could see the sky—and, in fact, we could see a bunch of glowing objects that hadn’t been in it before, like small moons in the distance. “So where’s Aureon?” Nion asked after a moment. Right on cue, there was a pop and he appeared before us. “That was convenient. Let’s just take him out now,” Lionel half-joked. “Mmm, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Aureon said mildly. “So what are we doing now?” Nion asked. “I get the feeling none of you would like to stick with me?” Aureon asked. Everyone looked around uncomfortably; no one said anything, but no one looked very enthusiastic about the proposition. “It’s your fault,” Lionel finally said, shrugging. “Do you think there’s any possibility you can ever be whole again?” Siscia asked. A voice suddenly interjected from behind us: “Why would he do that if I exist?” I turned to see that Jagal had appeared. She sounded like she was in a good mood. “Why would I do that?” Aureon agreed. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.” “Does the world feel great?” Siscia asked skeptically. “Maybe it’s not the deities who should be responsible for improving this land,” Scylla suggested to her. “If anything, I don’t think we need gods.” Aureon and Jagal both raised their eyebrows in response to this. Aureon beckoned his finger and Scylla, seeming abruptly diminished, shut up. “I’ll just be taking back what I gave you then,” said Aureon, a bit petulantly. Nion, a scowl on his face, took the ring off his finger and handed it to Aureon. Lionel observed wryly that he no longer even had anything to give back. Aureon gave them a look, though, and Nion said afterward that he could feel the supernatural connection between the two of them dissipate. Shaper also offered to give his armor back; this seemed at first like it would take more effort than the others, but Aureon was able to just touch him and replace the armor he was wearing with different armor. Aureon suddenly disappeared, reappearing a bit away, where it seemed Pif was trying to get away. There was an exchange between them, though they were too far away for me to hear what they said. Siscia was gripping her staff, looking sad and confused. I felt much the same way; I had no interest in being a champion of Aureon, but I really didn’t want to give up Kirin’s tome. “You know,” Jagal said gently to Siscia, “most of what that staff can do was Seamus’s own modification. Even with the radiant magic gone, you’ll still have it.” Aureon was back in front of us now. “All those friends, who came to help me when I needed it,” Siscia said miserably, “can you at least tell them thank you for me?” “Those weren’t Aureon’s powers either,” Jagal clarified. “They were Seamus’s.” “So what do I have to give back?” Siscia asked, confused. Aureon poked the jewel and the radiant light in the gem winked out. It looked like an ordinary orb now. He told her she wouldn’t be able to purify stuff anymore, but most of the staff’s abilities were intact. “Someone once told you that you had the most powerful allies,” he said. “Know that it wasn’t because of me—it was because of you.” “Doesn’t it concern you that no one wants to stick by you in the end?” Lionel interjected confrontationally. Aureon turned to him. (I was very grateful for the distraction before he could get to me.) “Listen,” Aureon said, “I’ve made mistakes, and through you I feel like I’ve rectified a small amount of them. It’s not that I don’t feel bad—it’s just that, after all I put you through without asking, I understand. There will always be people who will follow us. You were not those followers, even if you had the spirits of those who once were.” Lionel turned away from him dismissively and asked Jagal what her plans were. She said, in the short term, she wanted to come back with us to Trolanport; she still had questions she wanted to ask, and she also wanted to talk to Siscia. In the longer term, there was a lot of clean-up work that needed to be done following Dramul’s campaign. Siscia asked her, gesturing upwards, about all the new worlds that had appeared—and I only just then realized that the glowing objects in the sky must have been those worlds Dramul had previously consumed, now freed. Jagal admitted that the darkness Dramul had eaten was likely running rampant, but said she wasn’t a god on those other worlds, so she wasn’t sure what she could do. She looked at Aureon awkwardly; the latter admitted that they would have to think about how to handle those other worlds. Siscia, nevertheless, praised them for this rather meager hint that they might work together. We went back to Trolanport. Apparently hearing the noise as we arrived in the teleport circle room at the guild hall, Tiago’s brother Miago poked his head in, and then he was instantly running toward the main area, shouting that we were back. The guild hall, we could see as we followed him, wasn’t in great shape. The front where the door had once been was completely destroyed, and the market area beyond it was in ruins. Tiago was sitting at his table, as usual. “Hey, how’s it going?” he asked lightly. “What happened here?” I asked, concerned. He shrugged. “We were kind of getting beat pretty badly here,” he admitted. “Then they all disappeared. Those things from Aureon were helping us, but there was a bit of collateral damage. Almost lost my other arm.” He looked at me. “You should just go to House Cannith,” he said. “Don’t freak out—she’s fine—but Delphine was kind of hurt, not an insignificant amount.” I, of course, ignored his disclaimer and started freaking out, so Nion resummoned Talon to take me to House Cannith as quickly as possible. The city looked pretty wrecked, with buildings collapsed and rubble everywhere. House Cannith’s windows were busted, the walls half-beaten-down or with giant holes in them, and blood stained the ground as we approached. Barricades had been set up to make a funnel, but many of them were at least partially collapsed. There were no bodies, though; they seemed to have been cleaned up. As we went inside, the nearest attendant took one look at us and said, without us having to say anything, that she’d take us to Delphine. The inside, I was relieved to see, didn’t look as bad as the outside. There had been fighting in the entry hall, but it didn’t seem to have spilled much beyond that. We headed upstairs. When we got to Delphine’s room, the attendant knocked, and another attendant opened the door to show us in. Delphine was in bed, asleep. Her face was all scratched up, and judging from the bandages, she looked like she had a head wound—nothing grievous, but she looked pretty beat up. I sat by her bedside and took her hand. I waited a moment to see if she’d stir, but she didn’t, so, channeling the most powerful magic I have available to me, the magic I’d held back for an emergency even as we’d faced a god, I Wished her body to regenerate, and watched as her wounds receded before my eyes. She must have genuinely not been too badly hurt, because it didn’t take very long. She opened her eyes, and there was a moment when her eyes went wide as she struggled to process who was in front of her and what was happening, and then, with a surge of energy that assured me that she was truly feeling well again, she snatched her hand away from mine and flung her arms around me. I held her back and, elated that we’d both survived such impossible odds to be in this moment together, kissed her, and she kissed me back, and it was just as good as the first time—or even better, because all the anxiety of the war against Dramul was gone, and we kissed with the knowledge that we had won, and the future was ours. Eventually, I realized that we were being watched, not only by Nion and the two attendants—who I at least trusted to give us space and be discreet—but by everyone else as well, and I pulled away and looked at them. Evidently Siscia, thinking that we were going to need her healing magic, had teleported the rest of the party after us. Many of them were grinning at us; Shaper was making gestures to remind me of the ring he’d given me. I turned back to Delphine and asked her about what had happened. She described how she’d been fighting up front—where she could help the most—but had been overwhelmed. She said her dad was fine. “Is that Ageor the Wise?” she suddenly asked, with astonishment and wonder in her voice. And indeed, I saw that Aureon had appeared at the door next to the others. “It’s a long story,” I started to say, but Aureon was already bowing and explaining who he really was. “The god of knowledge is here at House Cannith?” Delphine gasped, her eyes even wider now. “The god of poor decisions, maybe,” Lionel muttered. Delphine either didn’t hear or ignored him. Rummaging around in her bedside table’s drawer, she pulled out an amulet in the shape of Aureon’s symbol, and started gushing about how she’s looked to Aureon for knowledge and guidance for years and it was a dream come true to meet him. She was fangirling pretty hard, and it was adorable, and even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of Aureon myself by this point, I was happy to let her have this moment. Aureon laughed warmly. “The knowledge of House Cannith is also something to behold,” he said magnanimously. “Hopefully, the addition of Cedric here will make it even better.” Delphine agreed, and they both looked at me, making me blush. Aureon thanked her for her kind words and backed off, cautioning her not to tell anyone who he was. Shaper also departed, saying he wanted to look for Merrix. This cued everyone else to begin departing as well. Finally, the two attendants gave each other an “oh god, this is it, isn’t it?” kind of look and, after a moment of hesitation, departed as well, leaving Delphine and I alone. There was a lot to talk about—and there’s a lot still to talk about, as we figure out what the future will hold for us. It had felt for so long like everything was leading up to the final confrontation with Dramul, and it feels a bit odd to be beyond that and moving forward. There’s definitely stuff we still need to do, but with no end-of-the-world deadline looming anymore, everything seems wide open, which is both exciting and a little daunting. One thing I’m sure about, though, is that I want to maintain my relationships—and this relationship in particular. The idea of returning to my spot in the Morgrave library by myself and having everything go back to how it was at the beginning is—as much as I like that library—too much of a nightmare to even contemplate. I still want to do research, and I still want to spend time in libraries, but I also want to live. And I realize now that I don’t want to—or maybe even can’t—do that on my own. Perhaps I should have proposed to Delphine right then and there—I’m sure she would have said yes if I had. I think I didn’t mainly because doing it then would have felt too much like I was doing it because Shaper and Aureon had told me to. When I do it, I want it to feel like it’s genuinely coming from me, on my own terms. I’ll figure something out. One thing we have now is time. In any case, I couldn’t have been happier with our time together that day. It turns out that, as wonderful as our first two kisses were, it was much nicer to have a chance to try again without a big crowd of people watching us. Meanwhile—I learned this all afterwards, mostly from Siscia and Nion—Jagal made her recruitment pitch to Siscia. We’d known this was coming, but the part that surprised me was that Siscia agreed to do it! I guess Jagal convinced her that they already embodied each other’s values, and she would just have to be herself. “You do you, and sometimes tell people I’m cool.” Siscia seemed to think it’d be more of a “best friends” relationship than an “I’m your god” one; I’m a bit skeptical, but I’ll admit that Jagal seems considerably more relatable than Aureon. Jagal went back to fetch Ben and Bomris. Ben, seemingly actually a kid now, was cowering behind her leg and crying, and Bomris, who had apparently killed all his animal friends, looked pretty mentally broken. Nion said he wasn’t very sympathetic, and Tiago apparently wanted to kick them out of the guild hall. It’s still up in the air where they’re going to go, but Pif seems to have taken an interest in Ben. Siscia gave Bomris the terrarium that Top of Bottle gave her; he tried to give it back, afraid that he’d kill it too, but she made him take it, saying that he needed it more than she did. They checked to see what had happened with Maeric and Duriel’s attempted resurrections, but Tiago reported that neither of them had wanted to come back. Connah seems to be permanently gone as well. We had feared that this might be the case, but it still hurt to have it confirmed. With Connah in particular, I fear I’ll never be able to shake off the regret of not having been able to save her. In particular, I keep thinking about how we lost three months in the fey wild and then arrived to rescue her from the Anathema as the ritual was taking place. If we’d been even a week earlier, how many lives might we have saved? But I suppose all we can do at this point is honor their memories and their sacrifice. Lionel and Nion went to look for Sofia and Rhea—or, rather, Sofia and Rhea showed up looking for them, having seen Nion atop Talon. Nion seems to have asked Rhea out(!), and the four of them made plans to do some things in Sharn and then go on vacation to the Sven/Elemaer plane. Before Jagal left, Lionel slipped her a note which seems to have contained instructions for dealing with his suspicious book if he dies—which I know mainly because she started loudly confronting him about it, in front of everyone. “If you need anything in the future and it’s important, let me know,” Lionel told her. “Otherwise, keep me out of all this nonsense.” Shaper went to talk to Merrix about the warforged forges. He wanted to make a haven for the warforged and was contemplating trying to fire the forges back up. Merrix was skeptical at first, but Shaper sounds like he’d like to have a family, and it sounds like Merrix took him seriously. Afterwards, Shaper gifted Top of Bottle Steel Defender, who has now been renamed Xbalanque. He also talked to Pif, asking her not to disappear on the party, saying that he wanted to be able to find her to give her a gift. He said he wants to eventually craft everyone masterwork items, though it’ll take him years to do so. Scylla went to see her family, which the guild had apparently relocated to Trolanport at some point. They went grocery shopping together; it sounded oddly sweet. We reconvened the next morning at House Cannith for a long brunch before departing. There were mimosas and waffles and everything else we could have asked for, and Siscia suddenly remembered the wine she dragged me into the fucking fey wild to craft and started giving that out too. This wine evidently never runs out—which seems like a dangerous thing to put in the hands of Siscia—and makes the drinker change colors based on their mood. I turned an orange-red color, feeling warm to be there relaxing with all my friends. Siscia, Shaper, Eli, Top of Bottle, and I are headed off to the Mournland to get to work on restoring it, following the instructions Seamus left us. Nion, Lionel, Scylla, and Pif are staying behind—so I guess this is where the party officially starts to dissipate. It’s a sad moment, but I take comfort in knowing that we don’t have to part forever like our predecessors did. It also helps that Delphine is coming with us to the Mournland, and so my sorrow about saying goodbye to Nion and the others is tempered by how excited I am to actually get to go on an adventure with Delphine. It’ll be fun to see her in action, but, more than that, I’m looking forward to getting to spend some time together with her, instead of just seeing her briefly and then having to leave her behind in Trolanport. I know the times ahead of us won’t always be easy—but after all we’ve overcome to get to this point, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the future.
  11. Excerpt from Cedric’s Journal [Session Notes 5/26 and 6/2] The ground was rumbling furiously the morning of the equinox. It was like our bones were rattling and our souls were shaking, and it was going pretty much nonstop by this point. “The time has come,” Aureon’s voice announced, though Aureon himself didn’t appear. “Leave this place and go to the surface. Walk without fear; you will climb with ease.” Nion, with his brand new griffon, had no interest in walking, but the rest of us found that wherever we stepped was solid ground, and we were able to just walk out of the chasm. Grass continued to grow under Siscia’s feet, even in midair, though it fell when she stepped away. At the top of the chasm, the full host of lieutenants awaited us—Ben, Onyxia, Bomris (the guy with the crow who came to talk to Siscia), Phaedrus (who, I think, is the one with the tentacles that we fought in the Battle of Sharn), and two others I didn’t recognize. One looked like he might be some sort of assassin; the other, far larger than everyone else, looked like some sort of giant made out of shadow. Eli seemed to recognize the giant. “I wanted you last time,” he growled, pointing his axe at him. “Hey, Lionel,” Ben taunted, “I just wanted you to know, that really did hurt my neck. Why don’t you come try it again?” “Do you want your ear back?” Lionel replied. The lieutenants looked like they were each sizing up a target, but Top of Bottle, of all people, made the first move, launching a Spear of Confusion into the lieutenants’ midst. It didn’t seem to bother them much, but it got the fight underway. Onyxia ran up to Eli and took a big swipe at him, which I had my simulacrum block with a wall. While Pif hexed Onyxia, Bomris, who had been smoking something, started to spit out some sort of breath attack. Not wanting to take any chances, I sealed him in a dome. When the smoke from his breath collided with the wall, it was like an explosion had gone off inside. My simulacrum cast Sunburst, blinding a few of our foes and pissing off most of the rest, while I started to crush Bomris with the walls. With a burst of strength, he held them off for now, but he was, in effect, out of the battle and, with nothing else to do, could only sit down and start feeding his crow. Scylla climbed up onto a boulder and fired a powerful shortbow shot at Onyxia, taking cover behind the rock again as the lieutenant screeched in pain. Lionel threw some eldritch blasts around and then blinked away. The assassin-looking-guy summoned two shadow minions out of the ground, but Siscia unleashed a Sunburst of her own, immediately destroying both of them. Phaedrus jumped toward Top of Bottle and tried to tentacle him, but I had my simulacrum put up another wall to stop him. Shaper placed a Sanctuary on Top of Bottle and then positioned himself next to Onxyia, who, blinded, flailed toward him but missed. The two Nions both summoned shadow hounds and then attempted banishments, which didn’t work, but the giant did blink in and out of the plane for a moment before stabilizing in place. He started to pummel Eli, but Eli, glowing with radiant energy, somehow tackled this giant—several times his size—to the ground. The fog was lifting as we fought, but as it did so, it unveiled an unnatural, brownish-tan sky. Pif fired an arrow toward Onyxia, but, having recovered from her momentary blindness, she plucked it out of the air and threw it right back at Pif. Ben squeezed around the wall and hacked at Eli, who was hanging on to the giant as he tried to shake him off. A black cloud crossed Eli’s face, but he continued holding on. Siscia was trying to heal Eli, Top of Bottle casting Beacon of Hope to help her. I chain lightninged the closest enemies while my simulacrum pulled up a Crown of Stars and put a hole in Ben’s chest. Phaedrus, going around the wall, lashed out with his tentacles, and I stopped one attack with a Shield spell, but another one broke through. Tentacles started to wrap around me, but I broke away with a miraculous surge of energy, simultaneously maintaining the wall around Bomris. Shaper summoned a golem in the air above Onyxia, letting it crash down on top of her. Pissed off, she transformed into her dragon form, knocking down Shaper and the golem, but they got back upright, both of them unmoved by her tail swipe, and the golem started trying to slam her. Meanwhile, Lionel and Scylla were periodically reappearing to fire off attacks. Glancing up, I could see the shadow of a very large dragon in the sky to the north. To the south was a much smaller dragon, made of light. The light dragon seemed like it was slowly being pulled toward the shadow. “Enough of this!” Onyxia growled, firing a shadow laser toward Bomris, destroying the dome he was trapped in. The freed Bomris immediately did something to Nion, and both the real Nion and his simulacrum started retreating frantically. Meanwhile, Ben was punching Top of Bottle in the face, and the giant had finally dislodged Eli, slamming him into a rock wall nearly fifty feet away with a mighty toss. We needed something that could turn the tide, so I cast two overchanneled radiant fireballs—one myself and one via my simulacrum—in succession. Some of the lieutenants were able to escape the worst of the first one, but none of them were able to react in time for the second one, and the burning light washed over them. When it passed, Onyxia was entirely on fire, writhing around to try to put it out, to no avail. With a last gasp, she spit a cloud of acid at us, before falling to the ground motionless. But I couldn’t appreciate this victory for long, because I had now drawn the attention of the others. The assassin-looking-guy disappeared into the shadows, only to reappear a moment later directly in front of me, stabbing me—right through the Shield I frantically tried to put up—with a dagger of pure shadow. At the same time, Phaedrus approached me from the other direction, totally ignoring the simulacrum in his path. While I was distracted by the assassin, he gave me a shove, right off the edge of the cliff and into the Glowing Chasm. The initial complete panic as I started falling backwards is a moment I’m sure I’ll relive in my nightmares for a long time to come. Top of Bottle flew into the chasm after me, but I was falling so fast, he was never going to catch up to me. Nevertheless, the near-bottomless depth of the chasm was actually an advantage, because instead of hitting the ground before I could react, I had a moment to think and figure out how to use my magic to save myself. I cast Dimension Door and reappeared back at the battle, but well away from the edge of the cliff, where a group of enemies still surrounded Siscia, Pif, and Scylla. Siscia had summoned the empyrean, and it was in the middle of blasting the guy who’d stabbed me with a bolt of radiant energy. Shaper was swinging at Ben with his armblade. Nion was repeatedly attempting banishments, and he finally managed to get the spell to stick on the giant, which vanished. Lionel reappeared to fire off a chromatic orb and series of eldritch blasts at Bomris, one of them striking his crow, which fell to the ground, motionless. “Zola!” Bomris shouted in anguish and fury, transforming into dragon form. The guy who’d stabbed me was stabbing at Scylla now, and she was at least sort of fending him off, and I guess that pissed him off because suddenly he was a dragon too. Eli started to head towards him to try to defend Scylla. Meanwhile, the two dragons in the sky were getting closer and closer. The light was starting to bleed into the shadow, as if being absorbed. Phaedrus glared at Siscia and opened his mouth to speak, and I realized, my heart sinking, that he was going to kill her just like he’d killed Charybdis, and I was too far away to stop it—but then Nion stepped in and blocked him with an expert Counterspell. It was just like when he’d saved the day against the Anathema—he’d done it again! Frustrated, Phaedrus grabbed at Siscia with his tentacles. “Hey! Octopus-face!” Top of Bottle suddenly called out, peeking his head out from the edge of the chasm, while he stood on the chasm’s wall with his magic slippers. This really startled Phaedrus, who looked totally dumbfounded and had no idea how to react. Top of Bottle had, beautifully, harnessed the same kind of energy that Phaedrus has just used to try to kill Siscia, and sent it back at him to stun him. It felt like we were finally getting the upper hand. “You’re not doing well, considering two of your allies have been defeated,” Pif proclaimed to the lieutenants, with a magical oomph in her voice that I had never heard there before. “You should probably withdraw from this fight and stay far away from us until our battle with Dramul is over.” Ben and the assassin guy looked like they were actually considering. Bomris, refusing to retreat, let out a breath attack. But, at this point, the shadow in the sky withdraw from its combat with the light and began descending to the ground, as if we’d caught its attention. When it reached the ground, Connah/Dramul stepped out from a shadowy cloud and stood before us. As if magically compelled, everyone stopped to look at her. She shook her head. “I had a feeling this might happen,” she said. The lieutenants were slowly backing away from her, as if afraid. “You all fought valiantly,” she said to them, “but we don’t have the numbers this time. It’s my fault.” Unlike last time, she was speaking as just Dramul, with no traces of the real Connah peeking through. She held out her hands, and it was like the lieutenants’ breath was being sucked out of them. From each of them emerged a dark aura, much like the auras we’d cleansed from Urimaer and the others; these auras all flowed back into Connah/Dramul. The lieutenants seemed diminished without them. The dragons shrunk back down to human size; Phaedrus, the shadows and tentacles gone, was burnt and scarred almost beyond recognition; Ben, all the malice drained from his face, started to cry. “What have I done?” the assassin guy was muttering. “Why would you take this away from me?” Phaedrus pleaded desperately. “I can do this!” “Your fight is over,” Dramul said. “You can all leave now; I’ll meet you again in Paradise.” “I have nowhere to go!” Ben sobbed. “My parents are dead!” “Just walk as far as you can,” she replied, almost gently, “and I’ll meet you there.” So he did, and the others departed as well. Once they were gone, Dramul turned to us. “Can we chat for a moment?” she asked. None of us said anything. “I know you think I’m evil—which is true, but I can explain. I first became an entity when Aureon began to learn secrets. Aureon knows things that would make this world better, that would fix every problem you’ve ever seen—but he considers them forbidden and won’t speak of them. And so, while I am a god of shadow and darkness, I’m also a god of knowledge. Aureon knows I’m right and won’t tell anyone. He’s interfered with any explanation anyone’s ever given—but he can’t stop me now from telling you the truth. I can see what people are thinking—well, you’re all protected, but I can tell you what Delphine is thinking right now, and what Charybdis was thinking just before he died, and,” turning to Lionel, “what Sofia was thinking when you first kissed her.” “If Lionel wanted to know, he’d just cast Detect Thoughts anyway,” Top of Bottle pointed out. I privately agreed. This was an odd aside, almost as if she was grasping at straws trying to figure out how to appeal to us; I don’t know why she thought we might want to know. “I believe you,” Siscia said. “Maybe there are things that Aureon should share. But maybe there are some things people are better off not knowing. Everything being perfect isn’t always the best way to live. Maybe there’s a compromise where you don’t consume him.” “You must think I seek to oppress,” Dramul observed, “but I am the reason Aureon doesn’t have darkness. When I devour a world, I feed on darkness and evil. I’ve done this 14 times now and taken away the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people. I am evil, but how could I not be? I’ve taken evil from everyone. And the preparations are almost complete here. Here’s my question: I am not out to kill anyone; I only seek to take away their darkness; I feed on it and I’m hungry. So must we fight?” “How many good people have died fighting against that, on all those worlds?” Shaper asked. “I would argue that they’re the opposition to the happiness of millions. Did you feel bad when you killed bandits?” “Yes, I did!” Siscia insisted. “I haven’t been able to use Spike Growth since!” Suddenly, the giant reappeared in the midst of everyone, returned from his banishment. He looked ready to fight, but then froze when he saw Dramul. He turned into a dragon and began to fly away, but the darkness was pulled from him, like with the others. “In your ‘paradise,’” Lionel asked, “if I put Top to sleep with a spell and tried to throw him into the chasm, would you allow that?” “You wouldn’t do that!” Dramul objected, sounding shocked. “That’s evil! That’s what I would do!” “Wouldn’t or couldn’t?” Lionel pressed. “Couldn’t! You wouldn’t be evil; why would you want to do that?” As Lionel began to assure Top of Bottle that he wouldn’t actually do that, Scylla started to talk about her complicated feelings toward stealing, and Dramul shook her head, exasperated. “It seems you don’t understand,” she said, “so why don’t I show you?” Done talking apparently, she smacked Shaper in the face. Though Shaper had been able to shrug off most of the lieutenants’ attacks without difficulty, he definitely felt this one. Eli ran up to her in response but she easily slapped his axe away. She caressed his face, which went blank and teary. He stood there motionless for a moment before she smashed him in the face as well. Shaper hasted Scylla, who shouted at us to stack together, shot at Dramul, and then hid behind a rock. I tried to get closer, getting Crown of Stars up myself now, while Siscia moved the empyrean into place, directing it to continually cast Bolster. Dramul disappeared into shadow and then reappeared next to Lionel, swiping at him and knocking him out. Shaper fired a bolt from his crossbow that somehow arced over to heal Lionel, and in the meantime Dramul was back to swinging at Eli, who by this point was bloody and barely standing. Finally, we were close enough for Scylla to do her thing. An unsettling black wall rose around us in a cube, and then we were in Kyoria. Dramul looked confused. “Interesting trick, but I know this isn’t real,” she said. “It makes no difference where you think you put me.” Scylla giggled and fired an arrow, which stuck in her stomach. She looked down at it. “Shit.” I got myself and Lionel out of harm’s way via Dimension Door and placed myself near Scylla. Meanwhile, Dramul had returned to punching Eli. Shadowy claws raked across his chest, blood burst from him, and he fell to the ground. “Get back up!” Siscia ordered, directing a mighty heal his way. “Fuck,” Eli gasped, on his feet again. She turned to heal Lionel next, but he was no longer there, having blinked away. So instead, she turned to the empyrean and directed it toward Dramul. Dramul tried to banish it, but Nion stopped her with another clutch Counterspell. Shaper went after Dramul with a powerful armblade strike and arcane jolt. She let out a godly shriek and put Eli in a stupor again, then started boxing Top of Bottle in the face until she had also knocked his hat off and reduced him to tears. It pained me to see him suffer like that, but I know Top of Bottle is tougher than he looks, and, not knowing how much longer we needed to hold out, was trying to save any remaining walls for a true emergency. Instead, I sent Crown of Stars motes toward her, using everything granted to me via practice and divine intervention to make them as well-placed and effective as possible. Nion sent a similarly inspired fire bolt in her direction as Scylla sunk numerous arrows into her. Lionel, temporarily back again, sent a chromatic orb squarely into her chest. She stumbled back, clutching her chest, visibly panicking now. He followed it up with a series of eldritch blasts, and she fell to one knee, screaming. “Fine,” she snarled, “instead of showing you the good, I’ll show you the bad.” A psychic blast washed over us. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s like, for a moment, we were suddenly in a world where there was nothing but evil and darkness and anguish. I saw Nion, sitting atop Talon, both obliterated instantly, and it took me a few seconds to realize that this was Nion’s simulacrum and not the real Nion—some more fuel for my worst nightmares. I staggered upright, and I saw that my simulacrum was also gone, and Eli and Top of Bottle and the real Nion were all on the ground. Lionel blinked back in and started running after Nion. “Do it!” Shaper shouted at Siscia, and although she clearly wanted to be healing her friends, she instead ran up to Dramul and placed the staff against her forehead. It started to glow, and so did all of our artifacts. Dramul’s eyes went black and she shrieked, trying to fight the artifacts’ effect on her. She was struggling but it was like she was locked into place. Siscia shouted to us about the goodberries she’d distributed as we rushed to help our fallen companions. Once everyone was standing—many of us were barely standing, but we were standing—Lionel started to wind his watch. As he wound it, the artifacts, resonating, glowed even more. Finally, he disintegrated the watch with a burst of light. Dramul started to convulse under the weight of the staff, and darkness shot up toward the ceiling, swirled around the room, and streamed into the two tombs. The stream continued for what felt like a very long time as the darkness drained from what had once been Connah’s body. Finally, the stream exhausted, her body fell to the ground, and all was still.
  12. Excerpts from Cedric’s Journal [Session Notes 5/19 and 5/26] There was a round hill in the distance, at the other end of the gorge, with buildings on top. As we traveled, the ground began to rumble and, very slowly, the town rose from the ground—what we’d thought was a hill was actually a mechanical creation, like a massive warforged turtle, and it was getting up and walking off. Shaper remembered the lost Cannith workshop he’d heard about. However, the town was going in the wrong direction and we decided we had other things we more urgently needed to deal with; we didn’t really have any reason to go there except to satisfy our curiosity. We traveled for the rest of the day, fending off random wildlife attacks from time to time without issue. We rested in Siscia’s bubble, but towards morning, we awoke to the sound of wolves howling, swarming around us. They must have been able to smell us through the bubble, or maybe someone was making noise in their sleep. The wolves all had two heads, except for the biggest, which had three. Siscia tried to talk them out of attacking us. It didn’t look like it was going well, so Nion dominated the alpha and had him calm down the rest of the pack. Siscia convinced Lionel to use his food bag to feed them (though he was being super lazy about it) and we decided to leave before the spell wore off. As we passed a totally black river, Siscia perked up, claiming to have seen it before, but her excitement wore off as she realized how awful and ruined everything looked. She talked about how great the trees and meadows and stuff were before. Now, the air was thick and a smell of sulfur permeated everything. The chasm was in the distance, glowing green. She led us to the edge of the chasm. I don’t know if she knew where she was going or if she was just winging it—with Siscia, the line between the two is pretty blurry sometimes—but we picked a spot and began to fly down. We descended through the glowing fog, trying to make out what we were headed toward, nervously not knowing what to expect (a river of some kind of radiation? a mechanical device of some sort? a portal to another realm?). The sulfur smell grew stronger. We had been going down for an uncomfortably long time when owl-Siscia abruptly changed directions and started flying upwards, leading us to a forty-foot hole in the side of the chasm, which we hadn’t seen at first because we were so focused on what was below us. It looked like an old dwarven hallway, though it wasn’t in great shape, the stonework destroyed and liquid dripping from the ceiling. That said, it got nicer as we got farther away from the chasm. The glow from behind helpfully lit the way, and we continued until we reached a set of large stone doors. Through them was a huge room, lit by white torches. The walls were lined with Aureon and Cyre-themed tapestries—landscapes, victories of the Chosen, Aureon symbols, etc—and there was a huge statue of an empyrean dominating the room. There were also myriad skeletons strewn across the ground, everything from goblins to a dragon. A set of enormous stone doors was across from us, decorated with carvings of the predecessors, Seamus in the middle, split across the two doors. Beneath the Seamus carving, a small skeleton leaned against the doors. There was also another room off to the side, which drew our attention because of the massive pile of skeletons—it had to have been at least 15 or 20 of them—just inside the threshold. Otherwise, it looked like a cross between a bedroom and a study. Nion sent Quill in to investigate; Quill looked at the stuff scattered across a desk and came back bearing a scroll, which Nion handed off to me—“The Seal” by Myan D’Cannith. At this point, Lionel cast Blink and reappeared inside. Immediately, the ground beneath him lit up. Nion panicked and ran in after him, and they were engulfed in a blinding beam of light. Nion dimension door-ed back outside, rubbing his eyes, but Lionel dropped straight to the ground, and Shaper had to summon a giant hand to pluck him out of the room. As Siscia ran over to Lionel, the ground began rumbling and the empyrean—apparently not a statue after all—started to stand up. “Who goes there?” it boomed. “The champions of Aureon?” Shaper tried, hesitantly. “You look like grave robbers,” it declared. “Were you a friend of Seamus?” Siscia blurted out. It turned to her. “You will not befoul Master Seamus’s resting place,” it warned. “He led me here!” Siscia protested. “He’s been talking to me!” “I’m wearing the armor!” Shaper insisted. “More suitable champions than you have tried to convince me,” the empyrean said, agitated. “You see their bones before you.” It started to raise its hammer but then stopped as Top of Bottle began playing his flute. It looked down at him; standing up, it was like forty feet tall, and Top of Bottle looked very small in contrast as he glanced upwards with teary eyes and then looked away again and kept playing. The empyrean lowered its hammer, calming down. “Please do not weep,” it said. “You must prove that you are the Champions; if you are worthy, you will be able to make it through these doors.” A closer look at the doors revealed that each of the carvings except for the one of Seamus had a slot to place the corresponding artifact. Winifred’s headband was actually already in its place somehow. Shaper sighed and began removing his armor, which was apparently a pretty laborious process. While we waited, Nion sent Quill back into the trapped room and looked through a bookshelf that was there. He used Mage Hand to extract a book, which, like the scroll, he handed off to me. Titled Restoration, the cover also indicated that the book was “For You.” It was handwritten, presumably by Seamus, and described how one might go about restoring the Mournland. Once we possessed the power Seamus had bestowed, we would be able to go to some specified locations, which would act as conduits, and use that power. Shaper looked very uncomfortable without his armor; to be fair, it was basically equivalent to if I had to take off all my clothes in front of everyone, so I didn’t blame him for his discomfort and tried not to look too hard. We placed our artifacts in the designated spots, and the doors slid open, the skeleton falling backward. We found ourselves in another large, well-lit room. Tapestries of what must have been old Cyre adorned the walls, but the room’s most eye-catching features were the thirty-foot-tall statues of Siscia in each of the corners. Siscia was astonished and more than a little weirded out to see them. In the center of the room was a platform with an altar, another red orb in front of it. Seamus’s staff lay atop the stairs leading up to the platform. When Siscia touched the orb, Seamus appeared, fully formed and not a silhouette this time, looking right at Siscia. She tried waving, but he didn’t wave back. He sighed and looked around. “I hope you like this,” he said. “I know it’s not really your style, but I want you to feel appreciated. You may not be a dwarf, but you’re one of us. You’ll see me once more, but this’ll be the final time I can chat with you. I just wanted to say, keep going—you can do this. I leave it all to you.” He faded back out. Siscia, looking touched, stepped forward and picked up the staff. When she touched it, everything glowed white for a moment—the statues, the altar, the floor. She took a deep breath. “Okay,” she said uncertainly as the glow faded. “Let’s go save the world, then.” She began walking back towards the doors, grass appearing beneath her feet with each step she took. Another orb had appeared next to the skeleton. This one showed a silhouette scene like the others: Seamus in front of the door, Jagal standing over him. “So, you made it, huh?” Seamus said. “Shut up!” Jagal growled. “You’re dead and you know it.” “You ever think about the old days and the times we had?” Seamus asked wistfully. “It was a lot of fun.” “No, I only think about killing you all.” Jagal reached closer; Seamus didn’t look like he intended to put up a fight. “When you’re done here, go and learn to love those around you again,” Seamus advised. Tears were running down Jagal’s face. “I never stopped loving you all,” she whispered. “I never will.” She placed her palm across his face; he started gasping for air, and the vision faded. Shaper had been pulling at his armor the whole time, and it finally came free as the orb dissipated. The doors slid shut, and the rest of us went and collected our artifacts. There was a flash from the direction of the trapped room, and the sound of something mechanical shifting. The empyrean bowed, indicating that he was Siscia’s to command, and then faded away. While we waited for Shaper to put his armor back on, we returned to the bedroom, which we apparently had permission to enter now. I looked over the bookshelf, which was mostly filled with stuff about old Cyre; a book with a bunch of pictures of cities captured Siscia’s attention. A workbench held a collection of various potions—nothing as revolutionary as what we’d found in Kirin’s tower, but potentially useful nonetheless. We were debating what to do next when Pif reluctantly admitted that, because she had regained Molly’s memories that time we visited Amfortas, she actually knew when the final battle was going to take place—at the equinox, a few days from now. With all of the artifacts finally together, really the only thing left for us to do was come up with a plan. I got out the Cannith scroll Nion had handed me earlier. Like Seamus’s guide to restoring Cyre, it seemed to have been written directly to us: The others weren’t too thrilled by this. Scylla seemed nervous about her prescribed role; Lionel wasn’t enthusiastic about destroying his watch. At least we have some direction now, though. I can help shield Scylla if need be; those Kirin-walls are pretty tough to get through, and they’re getting easier to cast as I get more practice with them. We’ve decided to stay here and rest and recover while we prepare for what may well be the final battle. I talked to Delphine to give her an update. She reported that things were tense and hostile all over the world. More and more of those light beings were showing up, and there were battles between them and the shadow minions, including in Trolanport—though she said most people there were safe and she was fine. “For now,” I couldn’t help thinking nervously, though I didn’t say it out loud. [The next day] A Dramul lieutenant showed up today, asking—weirdly politely—to speak to Siscia. It was someone we hadn’t met yet; he was dressed in all black, but in clothes that called to mind dead animals—in particular, his hood looked like it was basically a wolf’s head. A crow perched on his shoulder. He said his name was Bomris. He talked to her in druidic; she said afterwards that he was trying to convince her to join their side. “You all believe us to be harbingers of death, no?” he said to the rest of us, in common, after a few minutes. “You kind of kill a lot of people,” Shaper observed. “What else are you?” Scylla asked doubtfully. Lionel said that he didn’t think their plan was that bad, actually, but where they lost him was the part where they were brainwashing people and taking away their free will. He went back to talking in druidic. After a few more minutes, he turned to us again. “It was nice to meet you all,” he said in common. “I’m glad I could introduce myself.” He turned around and left. Siscia looked very uncomfortable. “When did I ever say I was interested in ruling anything?” she asked us, baffled. The other notable thing that happened today was that I guess Nion’s been playing around with Wish magic too. I’d been more than a little afraid of messing with such power and had been intending to keep it reserved for emergencies. Nion, however, wasted no time in Wishing himself his own personal griffon. The griffon looks a lot like a bigger Quill, though with facial features that invoke Nion’s dark and light energy motif. Nion has named him Talon, and he looks very regal sitting atop him. It got me thinking about what I can cast to prepare for what’s ahead—it feels strange to know what’s coming beforehand and have time and near-unlimited resources to deal with it—and so I have gone and made myself a simulacrum. It’s very uncanny; I’m uncomfortable looking at it, to be honest, and it feels awkward and clumsy to control. But it’s hard not to jump at a chance to basically double my effectiveness in battle—double the spells, double the walls, double the overchannel capacity, double the things “I” can concentrate on at once. Maybe it will even distract our enemies and take a hit that otherwise would have hurt one of us. [The next day] We got another visitor today. He looked like Ageor the Wise, the wizard from the statue near Kyoria—the one that talked to us—but Parath announced him as Aureon himself. He asked politely if he could come in. Lionel wanted to shut the door in his face, but we let him in. “So,” he said, “you guys have your work cut out for you.” “Why for us?” Lionel asked skeptically. “Why not for you?” “If I participate in this fight too directly, Dramul will just absorb me and we’ll all die. She’s stronger than me because evil knows no bounds and goodness does.” “Deities are useless,” Lionel grumbled. Aureon started talking about what we could expect to happen. He described—Siscia nodding along, as if she expected this—a phenomenon where the sky would turn into a mirror image of the ground. “What happens if both you and Dramul are no longer around?” Lionel interrupted. Aureon hesitated. “I suppose that means there’ll be less law and justice in the world,” he said. I thought it a weirdly weak response. Lionel questioned the wisdom of Aureon splitting off Dramul in the first place. Aureon indicated, rather defensively, that although he can generally see the future, he can’t do so for himself or his fellow gods. “Can you see the future of this book?” Lionel asked, pulling out his suspicious book—the one that contained a “god from another plane,” that the spirit at the Dark Six’s shrine threatened to eradicate him over, that he’d tried to tell me was “just a book.” Aureon flinched back. “You must destroy that at once!” he warned. “What you have there contains a god—an evil, evil god.” “You still haven’t answered by question,” Lionel complained. “I just said that I can’t see the future of gods. This is a god—but pure evil. I would not carry that with you for much longer.” “Can I see the evil book?” Top of Bottle asked curiously. “I should tell you,” Aureon said, changing the subject, “you are the last of the cycle of my champions. You’ve been reborn for this moment. After this, if—no, when you succeed, you’re welcome to remain my champions, but if you don’t want to, I understand. You have answered the call; I appreciate that and will support you no matter what.” “It’s not like we had a choice,” Nion observed. Aureon apologized, though it didn’t really matter at this point. “Why did you make Jagal suffer?” Nion asked. He described the visions he’d seen of the alternate futures of the people he’d massacred. “They would have brought endless suffering and chaos to hundreds of thousands of people,” he insisted. “I thought there was hardly a choice to make.” “You knew this would be how Jagal turned out,” Lionel accused. “I would never wish for things to happen the way they did, although the way she is now is more beautiful than she ever was. It was unfortunate what she had to go through—but what else could I have done? Let the world burn?” “What’s Jagal’s godhood going to do to the power balance among the gods?” “I’m not sure,” Aureon admitted. “I believe it will literally balance out my self-righteous nature and the evil nature of my other half. I will be attempting to get her into the Sovereign Host.” “Maybe, if she’s supposed to represent balance, she should stay neutral, outside the Host,” Siscia observed. “That reminds me,” Aureon said, turning to her, “Siscia, it has been requested that you consider becoming her Chosen. I don’t understand—I feel like you’re more good than balanced—but Jagal seems to have taken a liking to you. I bring you this news because, I should clarify, I said earlier that you’re welcome to remain my champions, but you, Siscia, are not invited to be my champion. So you should consider her offer; you will be approached by her should you all survive.” I was a bit dumbstruck by this pronouncement, especially because it came totally without explanation. It was a very jarring thing to hear on the eve of going to battle on Aureon’s behalf, an arbitrary-seeming metaphorical slap in the face coming at a time when he should have been supporting us. Siscia herself was unbothered, shrugging and remarking that she’d been surprised to have been made a champion in the first place. But even if she doesn’t care, and even if neither of us want to be champions of Aureon anyway, I still feel more than a little indignant on her behalf. “What will you be doing during the battle?” Nion asked Aureon. “Not getting absorbed,” the latter replied vaguely. “Aren’t you going to let us know what your plan is? Shouldn’t we know where you are, where you’re going?” Aureon explained that he wanted to be in the Hall in Kyoria, but he knew it was a bad idea—if he wasn’t there, it would be harder for Dramul to win. “Your predecessors that last time were much weaker than you all are now,” he said. “They did what they could, but their sealing method was flawed, and I had to help them in the fight. It was a mistake—I was grievously injured and had to sleep for a thousand years.” He reached out and touched Scylla’s forehead. “You should be able to take Dramul, physically, to the Hall. I will be close enough to lend you all aid should you need it.” Shaper asked for clarification about how the watch worked and how to destroy it. “If you destroy it while winding forward, it’s in some way infinitely winding forward,” Aureon said. “As for how to destroy it, one of you has a grand armory.” He looked at Pif. “Another of you has a strong arrow.” He looked at Shaper. Then he shrugged. “It’s a watch; it won’t be hard to destroy.” “What happens if we fail?” Nion asked. “Then she eats the world.” The ground shook furiously—it’s been rumbling on occasion the entire time we’ve been here, but it’s been getting more frequent and worse as time goes on, and this instance was particularly violent. “Well, she knows I’m here,” Aureon observed. “I must go; I will be in contact. I am sorry I have not been better.” And he turned and left. Reactions to the conversation we’d just had were pretty mixed. Nion and Lionel were visibly frustrated with Aureon; Scylla was super nervous about her assigned task in the battle to come; Top of Bottle’s eyes were going wide in wonder as he only just now realized that there were two Cedrics. I gently teased him about it—I don’t think he can tell which of us is real. I thought it would be a good idea if we practiced, as best we could, so Nion summoned an elemental and we did a sort of dress rehearsal. The artifacts all resonated, and it seemed to be working until Lionel wound his watch backwards instead of forwards to see what would happen, and all of the energy we’d been harnessing immediately died. But other than that—and keeping in mind that we were just dealing with an elemental instead of Dramul and her lieutenants—it seemed to go reasonably well. It certainly makes me feel better to know that we have a plan, and I think many of the others feel that way, too. Nion thinks the simulacrum is a good idea and wants to make one himself. I talked to Delphine again in the evening—not that I really had anything important to say, but it may well end up being the end of the world tomorrow, and I wanted to hear her voice again before then. I started telling her about Nion’s griffon and ended up reminiscing about that time we looked at pictures of birds at the Trolanport library and she made me promise to travel with her to see exotic birds someday. I was basically just rambling to try to distract myself from my nervousness—but it’s nice to imagine a future where I still have a chance to keep that promise.
  13. Excerpt from Cedric’s Journal [Session Notes 4/21, 4/28, and 5/12] A wall of dense fog marked the start of the Mournland. There was also more of that red smoke, like from the weird orb we encountered on the side of the road, not too far in. As we approached, we heard the sound of slithering in some nearby bushes, and three large nagas emerged, pointing spears at us. “You must not go any further,” one said. “Even the most experienced adventurers perish in there.” Siscia gestured toward the smoke. “I think someone left me a message,” she said. The nagas stared at her for a moment, and then one bowed. “Drop your spears,” the naga said to the others. “It’s the Champion of Fire.” I started cracking up at the idea of Siscia being “Champion of Fire” but they turned out to be referring to the color of her hair, to her relief. They started talking about some prophecy or something that foretold that she’d come here. They were familiar with Seamus, though they called him “Seamus the Failure.” “This is his fault that this happened. He was given all the power in the world to stop this,” a naga said, gesturing toward the Mournland, “but he was weak. But you are the answer—it’s been told for 900 years, at least.” “Do you have any advice for what we should expect?” Siscia asked. “Always look over your shoulder,” a naga advised. “There are things creeping and crawling everywhere in that fog. We hear screams when people go in there—they don’t make it very far.” “But you, you won’t fail,” another one added. “It’s foretold.” We ended up leaving the horses with them and proceeding on foot. The fog made the air feel thick and heavy, and of course the visibility wasn’t very good. We made our way to the red orb without incident. This orb showed us a vision of Jagal holding a dwarf—not Seamus; one of his companions—in the air by her throat. “Why do you go to such great lengths to protect Seamus?” Jagal demanded. “Can’t you see you can’t stop me?” “One day this land will stand in ruin,” the dwarf gasped, as if reciting something, “and a champion will come to comfort—” “But what does that have to do with Seamus?” Jagal interrupted impatiently. “Seamus makes the plans and Aureon guides her way,” the dwarf said. “When she’s born, your murderous promise will die.” At this point, Jagal broke the dwarf’s neck, and the silhouettes faded. In the silence, now that the vision was over, we noticed a clicking sound approaching us, and out of the fog emerged a huge bone snake thing—I write “snake” because that’s what its body shape resembled, but it was the size of a dragon, and it had ten arm/leg/appendage things. Well, whatever it was, it wasn’t too happy to see us—but fortunately, it didn’t seem to like fire much. Everyone unloaded on it, including Scylla (who can apparently do that now—she declared it “magic bullshit time” as she joined in with a fire bolt), while it wasted its time trying to strangle Shaper, who doesn’t actually need to breathe. We took care of it without too much difficulty. While some of the others were poking at the body—Scylla with Mage Hand—Lionel spotted a village in the distance, through the fog. There was a fairly well-traveled path heading in its direction, and as we approached, we started to see warforged parts scattered across the ground. Shaper, unfazed by this, explained that a lot of his people had fled here after the war. “It’s hard to imagine any village that stands doesn’t get attacked regularly,” he said. “We should be careful. Some warforged might be hostile, especially to non-warforged.” “Can’t we disguise ourselves as warforged?” Scylla asked, evidently wanting to show off that she can Disguise Self now too. Nion also tried to shift into a warforged, though I can’t say I’ve ever seen an actual warforged wear capes like that. The village didn’t have outer walls, and it wasn’t in great shape—the houses looked half- or even mostly-ruined, many of them with missing roofs or partially-crumbled walls, some of them little more than rubble. It was dead silent, but I got the feeling we were being watched. Finally, a door opened, and, slowly and hesitantly, a warforged who looked eerily similar to Shaper looked out and looked us over. The warforged did a double-take, much like the nagas upon seeing Siscia. “I would recognize that design anywhere,” he said. “Brother, have you come for us?” Shaper considered. “Was it…” he hesitated. “Was it Jackson?” The warforged came out and shook his hand, praising Jackson as the greatest artificer to ever live. Shaper admitted that he’d never actually met another warforged from his own creator. By this point, a lot of other warforged were poking their heads out curiously from the other houses. The one Shaper was talking to, named Maker, explained that they’d been in this village since the fall of Cyre, though their numbers had dwindled over time. “We’ve been increasingly getting raided by odd creatures recently,” Maker acknowledged. “Marauders don’t typically go so close to the border, but lately they’ve been more bold.” Shaper observed that things had been changing in the world. Maker didn’t seem to be aware of the Dramul stuff going on, so we gave him a brief summary. Hearing this, he indicated that there was someone in the village who knew a lot about the gods, and he offered to bring us to her. He led us through the village and introduced us to an old elf woman named Thessalia. Thessalia was in rough shape—badly-hunched back, covered in burn marks, one eye twice the size of the other, missing an ear. Her eyes teared up as she looked at Siscia, and she invited us into her house. She asked us if we had any food or water, and she started crying in gratitude when Siscia pulled an old, disgusting-looking waffle out of her bag. “Your love is as boundless as they told me it would be,” she said to Siscia. She went into another room—she gave us some thin excuse, but I think she actually just wanted to go cry for a moment—and Scylla and Top of Bottle for some reason interpreted this as an opportunity to go rummaging around. Nion followed after to keep an eye on them. Siscia was pleading with Lionel to make some real food, so he took out his food bag and indiscriminately dumped out onto the table what must surely have come across to Thessalia as a feast. When Thessalia returned a few minutes later, her eyes red and puffy, she was dumbfounded. Over this meal, she asked us what we were wondering about the shadow god. “How do we prevent more destruction?” Top of Bottle asked. “I’m not quite sure how to stop it,” she said. “It seems almost inevitable, so much death and destruction brought by that thing. I hate her.” “What can you tell us about Dramul’s influence here?” Shaper asked. Thessalia shuddered as he said Dramul’s name. “It’s waned in recent years, but it’s back up, almost like she’s waiting for something. She’s waiting for you of course—it’s not hard to tell. That beast you slew was waiting. They know what path you’ll take. All their activity recently has been in preparation for you.” She turned toward Siscia as if to emphasize that it was for her in particular. “Is this to do with that ‘foretelling’?” Siscia asked, making air-quotes. Thessalia went to fetch her journal from the other room, but Nion sheepishly admitted that he’d picked it up while looking around. “You can’t understand the language, can you?” she asked. “Well, here.” She reached for the book, and Nion handed it over. She opened it to the first page, telling us about how she’d kept it with her for a very long time, since she’d been a priestess of Dramul. “‘Take shelter from the light and grow in the darkness. The righteous will scorn, but none are faultless,’” she said. The book looked like it was written in the god/Jagal language, but Thessalia seemed to know it by heart. “‘When the world is engulfed in night, no more will the weak need to fight, for Mother will nurture and Mother will keep, and her children of the abyss will no longer weep.’ That was our mantra—what we recited to make ourselves feel better about what we were doing. But I eventually decided I couldn’t serve a god that promised paradise but hurt so many people. You know, a Dramul minion was the reason for the fall of Cyre. I had no idea it was happening until it was too late. Really, the only reason I haven’t killed myself is because of a dream I had just before Cyre was obliterated. May I read it to you?” “I love dreams,” Siscia affirmed. Thessalia flipped to a later page of the journal and read, translating as she went: “I was unhurt aside from these deformities,” Thessalia concluded. “I don’t know what it means, but I’ve had these strange powers ever since and visions nearly every night. Visions of you,” she said, looking toward Siscia. “I’ve followed your adventures and your hardships and your victories. I’ve been waiting for this moment; I apologize for how awkward I’ve been.” Siscia started describing how Seamus had also visited her in a dream. There was a poem involved in this dream too: Siscia commented that the line about only asking and taking from the gods resonated with her in particular. I can’t say it resonated much with me—the only thing I’ve ever really wanted from the gods is for them to leave me alone—but I suppose it was her dream, not mine. “He asked if you remember the way,” Thessalia said. “Do you?” Siscia said she still didn’t know what he meant. She asked Eli to take out the map, which she’d studied at length during our journey. She gestured broadly in the vicinity of the Glowing Chasm, saying that as best as she could tell, it was around there, but she couldn’t say more. “Well,” Thessalia said, “there was a kingdom of dwarves from the Glowing Mountains. Obviously there are no more dwarves there now. But there have been tales of a pilgrimage Seamus took after his last adventure, while he was being hunted. I’d wager the mountains were his destination. You might want to look in the Chasm, love.” “I prefer the term ‘former mountain range,’” Siscia indicated. “There are tales of a place only the Champion of Fire can access, created by Seamus,” Thessalia continued. “What kind of a Champion of Fire can’t actually cast Fire Bolt?” Lionel teased. Thessalia scowled at him. “Don’t mind him,” Shaper said to her. “He just opens his mouth.” “And shit falls out, yeah,” she said. Lionel, pretending to be offended, started putting food back into his bag. “I know, I’ve been watching you for more than a year now.” She shrugged. “He’s not all bad, though,” she admitted. “The volcano—kind of shit, but they deserved it.” Changing the subject, Shaper said we needed to talk more about the link between Dramul and Cyre. “If Dramul caused all this in the first place,” he observed, “it’s pretty good evidence that Dramul isn’t fixing anything.” “The promise of a paradise is real,” Thessalia insisted. “Dramul is large enough to swallow this planet. There’s a device of some sort that keeps the planet on its axis, but it’s a safe place, without war or suffering. But to weaken the resistance of this world, many have to die or be changed or corrupted. The path to get there isn’t worth the end result. Why would we destroy most of what we have; if it’s not a peace for all, why do it?” “How does a world without conflict even work?” Nion asked. “Those who would cause the conflict are made to be gone before it would happen. It’s as if you’re allowing Dramul to access the hostile part of your mind. When you think about wanting to harm someone and it seems you might act on it, she sees all, so she’d send someone after you.” She explained that this was the purpose of what we’d been calling “corruption.” “There’s one other thing I’ve been entrusted with that I want to share,” Thessalia said. She dragged a chest over and opened it; another red orb floated upward. Lionel did his telepathy thing so that she could get in on the vision. We saw Jagal slumped over on her knees, Seamus and two dwarves standing—well, not quite standing over her since they were still shorter, but standing next to her, with that sort of demeanor. “You still can’t beat me, old friend,” Seamus said. “It’s not time. What are you even doing here?” “I made a vow, and it’ll come true,” Jagal said. “You know it will.” “It just won’t come true right now; you’re not strong enough yet. I know what’ll happen—I’ve seen it in the stars—so you just sit right there and don’t worry.” He bonked her with his staff. “You’ll get your chance.” “I need you to tell me where Ezra went,” Jagal insisted. “You know I can’t do that. I know he took your son, but it’s his too, so just relax. You’re on a warpath; he’s not. Let your son have peace.” “What the fuck,” Eli interjected. “You know your seal won’t hold,” Jagal was saying as Seamus and the dwarves were turning to walk away. “I don’t care,” Seamus said. “I know it won’t. I’ve seen it in the stars; I know it’s coming. But there’ll be a way to end all of this forever.” They walked away, and the vision ended. All of us looked at Eli. “Am I part god?” Eli asked, shocked. “Jagal wasn’t a god until later, so I think you’re good,” Lionel said lightly. “I wouldn’t want to have to kill you.” We pondered what Jagal’s plan might be. Thessalia said she didn’t think Jagal cared what the other gods thought; her goal wasn’t to appease them. “Jagal has become a god herself,” Thessalia said. “I can feel a connection to her similar to what I felt when I served Dramul.” “Except less murder-ey?” Siscia clarified. “Quite a lot,” she laughed. “Jagal is a god of balance.” (While I understand why Jagal doesn’t want to work with Aureon anymore, I must admit that this rhetoric about “balance” has me rolling my eyes a little. Not that balance in general is a bad thing—but it seems silly to talk about here, as if they’re looking for a “balance” between “let’s allow Dramul to consume the world” and “let’s not.”) Thessalia invited us to stay the night. Lionel asked if she could teach us the god-language(!) and we ended up spending the entire night going through Kirin’s tome. Of course I wasn’t going to learn the entire language in just a few hours, but she started with the basics and helped me identify the most interesting and important parts, and at this point I have enough of a start that I’ll be able to go back and puzzle through the rest later, when I have more time. The tome seemed to largely be Kirin’s journal—I suppose it’s not too surprising at this point that Kirin would have written down what was happening, much like I’ve been doing. But there was also a decent amount of conjecture and theory. Some of it was material like the wall stuff that I’d already figured out, but there was also material that was new to me, such as the concept of shrouding fire spells in light to make them do radiant damage. There was a section with observations about the artifacts: We were at this for so long that we ended up needing to stay a second day to recover and rest. Shaper went off to chat with the other warforged; he mentioned hearing about an old Cannith workshop in the Mournland somewhere that was never found. I was pretty intensely focused, so I don’t know what the others got up to. We finally departed, thanking Thessalia for her help. She said she’d be staying until the Champion of Fire had cleansed the land. Siscia bowed to her respectfully as we left. Aside from the warforged, all of the humanoid life we saw in the Mournland was misshapen and deformed—it wasn’t just Thessalia. Even the animals—we saw a deer with two heads, a fox with extra ears, birds in all sorts of weird shapes. As we approached some mountains in the distance, the ground began periodically shaking. Siscia thought the earth was sad, but the rest of us were worried about volcanoes or things burrowing underground. The terrain began funneling us into a gorge between the mountains; Shaper called it a “death gorge” and we took to the air to try to avoid falling into any traps, but there was more red smoke up ahead, so we continued despite our misgivings. Lionel descended to talk to some fire elementals at one point and reported back that there was a former dwarf city further north up the gorge, but a huge red dragon had taken up residence inside. The orb was right by the entrance to this cave. Lionel convinced the elementals we were welcome guests, so they didn’t attack us right away, but one of them went into the cave to fetch the dragon. Siscia went right for the orb, hoping we could get the information we needed and then get out, before it was too late. We saw Jagal sitting at a campfire across from a much younger-looking Amfortas. Dwarven bodies littered the landscape all around. “So what happens after you kill them all?” Amfortas was asking. “I keep killing them, again and again, until my promise is fulfilled.” “When will that be?” Amfortas pressed. “Why are you even here?” Jagal protested. “I’m trying to meditate and you’re just bothering me.” “I can’t allow you to do what you’re doing, and you know it.” “You’ll lose much more than your leg if you try to stop me.” “Aren’t you worried?” Amfortas asked. “You were once known as Jagal Gentlepalm; now look at you. Your soul is tainted.” “My gentle soul died the day I made that promise. I had to do it and they all deserved it.” “You know that what happened had to be done. It wasn’t their fault either.” Jagal sighed. “Now that I’ve killed half of them, I agree. I know I made a mistake, but I was angry. Now I can’t stop this until they fulfill their end of things, even if I have to destroy the entire city of Thern Falduhr. But what if they have children? What if my own child sees me kill his father? I can’t be forgiven.” “You’ll just have to find a way to atone,” Amfortas shrugged. “They were always stronger under your leadership.” “So what brings you little mice here?” another voice interjected from the cave as the silhouettes faded. The dragon emerged to stand over us. The elementals weren’t wrong—it was big, at least twenty feet tall. “Just headed to Thern Falduhr,” Shaper said. “You came for my horde, didn’t you?” “No, I came to contribute to it.” Shaper pulled out his money bag and dumped its contents onto the ground in front of the dragon. Taking his cue, Siscia and I did the same. The dragon looked at Eli’s axe greedily and started going on about he’d done so much to clear the roads and make it safe to travel, and, really, everyone else should be contributing too. Scylla tried a flattering approach, exclaiming about how impressive and beautiful the dragon was, and he scoffed at her. “I already know all of this,” he laughed. “What half-breed wouldn’t be jealous of me?” Scylla faltered upon hearing this and threw her own gold into the pile. “Would you grace us with your name?” Siscia asked. He glared at her. “You don’t know my name already? Awful. You insult me!” I added that we were from far away, and he eventually told us his name was Xivruss. Nion offered his deck of illusions. Xivruss was offended at first that the deck wasn’t complete, but after Nion draw a card and summoned an illusory cloud giant, he was impressed enough that he declared it’d do. When everyone turned to Lionel expectantly, he flicked a Featherfall token in Xivruss’s direction. The dragon asked him coldly to explain himself, and he replied, “I guess you’re not a very good dragon if you don’t know what it is.” I turned to glare at him, exasperated, but it was too late; a fight was now avoidable. Honestly, I’m still a bit pissed—if he was going out of his way to be as much of an asshole as possible, he couldn’t have done a better job. It probably didn’t actually matter because I’m sure Pif would have rather died than contribute anyway, but that doesn’t excuse Lionel. Top of Bottle, sensing the change of mood, started scampering away. Some of the elementals went after him, catching him on fire, while other elementals approached the rest of us. Eli also caught on fire. Siscia reacted to this by sending a huge tidal wave down the gorge, instantly obliterating many of the elementals. She looked shocked. “I was just trying to put out the fires!” she exclaimed, almost apologetically. I wondered if she’d learned how to do that specifically because of me. Maybe she was Champion of Fire after all—or champion over fire, at any rate. Shaper, Eli, and Scylla were approaching Xivruss from three different angles when the dragon took a deep breath and exhaled a massive wave of fire in the direction of where most of us were standing. I threw up a Kirin-wall to protect most of us, but Eli, who was standing too close, got smoked. Top of Bottle, emboldened by the wall, went right up to it and started taunting Xivruss: “How do dragons make holiday plans? They don’t—they just wing it!” Xivruss looked at him and then started cracking up, laughing so hard that he literally collapsed to the ground. Scylla took this opportunity to dash up to him and stab him with her rapier, and Shaper also went at him with his armblade. Nion threw a handful of arrows up into the air, arcing them over the wall, and animated them midair to send them after Xivruss. The dragon was no longer laughing. Meanwhile, one of the remaining elementals—this one further up the slope of the gorge, so it had avoided the tidal wave—attacked Nion, igniting his cape. I cast Watery Sphere to get rid of it; I couldn’t cover anywhere near the area of Siscia’s wave, but it was still enough to douse the elemental. However, distracted, I accidentally dropped the wall in the process. I need to remember not to do that in the future—though, at least I succeeded in saving Nion’s cape. Xivruss got up and started really going after Eli. He swiped him across the chest twice, then bit at him; his head was so big that basically Eli’s whole upper body ended up getting crunched. Blood was flying everywhere. Eli, flailing wildly, was able to escape his mouth, but he was basically using his axe as a crutch at this point, making him unable to get out of the way when Xivruss swung his tail around like a club. But, while this was going on, everyone else was unloading on him—Lionel with lightning and eldritch blasts, Nion with his arrows, Shaper with his armblade, etc. Scylla made sure to remind him of his comment about half-breeds as she plunged her rapier into him for the killing blow. The horde was disappointing at first glance. The cave interior looked like it’d had cool dwarven architecture at one point, but it was all ruined. There was more rubble than visible treasure, and there were no magical items at all, as far as we could tell. Finally, though, we found a chest filled with valuable-looking gemstones. Shaper appraised it as like 200,000g worth of gems. My eyes went wide upon hearing this—it was a truly staggering amount of money after how poor I’ve been for my whole adventuring career. I’m pretty sure Pif was drooling. I hadn’t wanted to fight the dragon in the first place, but if he was going to insist on forcing us to kill him, then at least our efforts were ultimately worth it.
  14. Excerpts from Cedric’s Journal [Session Notes 4/14 and 4/21] Duriel had disappeared during the night, leaving a note indicating that they had “business to attend to” and would meet us all in Kyoria. This seemed weird and a bit suspicious, considering a god had literally sent us all a dream telling us not to split up, but they were already gone and it was too late to stop them. It took some discussion for us to figure out how we’d even get to Kyoria now that the guild hall was gone, but Eli thought he’d heard about a ruined shrine to Aureon a few days north of us with a teleport circle, so we decided to try that. There were guard patrols everywhere along the road, clearly nervous due to everything that had happened recently, but word started to spread that we were around, and they let us pass without much issue. People were staring and pointing at Eli’s axe and Pif’s sword and Nion’s capes, and they were saluting us as we passed by. It was an eerie feeling; I can’t say I liked it much, though at least everyone was getting out of our way. A few nights into our journey, I was up writing when there was a blinding flash of light above the trees nearby, and suddenly a dragon of radiant light was headed toward us. It shrank and changed shape to become more humanoid, a bit shorter than me, but it still had no discernible features—it was just blinding light. It came right up to the edge of Siscia’s bubble and started speaking softly, repeating the same phrase over and over. It sounded like the Jagal language, which prompted me to pull out Kirin’s tome and flip through it. I immediately found a page where, amid all the gibberish, one phrase was translated into Common: “We protect his Chosen.” This was a new development; I had poured over this book many times before and was totally sure this phrase hadn’t been in Common until now. I said it out loud, and the thing, hearing me, stepped into the bubble. It knelt in front of us and repeated its message in Common. “That’s really nice of you,” said Siscia sleepily. “Do you know you’re really bright?” At this point, it was brighter than day inside the bubble, and everyone was awake. “Let us sleep...” Nion groaned. “Artifact imperfection detected,” it said rather mechanically, looking at him. He glared back. “May I repair your artifact?” it asked, holding out his hand. Nion hesitated and looked at Lionel, but when the latter shrugged he reluctantly handed over the ring. It put its hand into its chest and pulled it back out, now empty. “The ring was created to cleanse, but it has only caused pain,” it explained. “I will fix it.” “Who are you?” I asked. “I defend his Chosen.” “Don’t you have a title or something?” Scylla complained. “We are Aureon.” “I thought Aureon was asleep,” Shaper noted. “Darkness may only exist in the presence of light,” it replied cryptically. It pulled the ring out of its chest. All of the black was gone from the gemstone now; it was just white. Nion took the ring, looking ready to go back to bed. “Priority task completed,” the radiant thing announced. “One last piece of information: with the spiritual return of light and darkness to each plane, they cannot destroy one another yet, but keep one another at bay. The time for destruction is nigh when the world can see itself.” It turned and began to walk away. “They never tell you what it means,” Siscia commiserated to Scylla, who was looking annoyed. There was little left to be done, though, except go back to sleep. Eventually, we reached the ruins. They had the same sort of architecture as we’d seen in Kyoria, though everything was in really bad shape. The most interesting thing there was a statue made of blue stone intertwined with the ceiling—it was shaped like a dragon, making it look like a blue dragon was poking its head through. The teleport circle resembled the one Kal had used to bring us to Woodhelm. Eli knelt down and dusted it off; there were as many spots as members of the party, including Duriel. “This was made for our predecessors, but it should still work,” Eli explained. “We just… have to give something of ours.” He paused. “We just have to give enough.” He took the pistol that he’d brought from his homeland and placed it in the spot in front of him. In another empty spot he placed his hand-axes, saying they were for Duriel. We hesitated, then began making our offerings. Siscia went first, offering some cloudy blue wine that I think she bought during our first trip to Trolanport. Shaper offered some black dragon scales. I decided to offer some of the books I’d acquired throughout our adventures: The Cat with the Lazy Tongue – the book I received from my doppelganger in one of our very first adventures Reminiscences of Regdar – memoirs of a legendary hero that I’d bought when we first left for Trolanport and I was trying to figure out how to navigate the House Cannith situation The Elf-Maid and the Evil – a really trashy romance book Lionel bought me to tease me about Delphine Spellscribing for Dummies – the book I bought when I was trying to figure out how to learn Counterspell None of them were worth very much individually, but collectively they were mementos of my adventures, and they—even the smut book—had sentimental value, at least to me, for that reason. To be honest, my backpack feels empty now without them. Eli knelt down in prayer. “May the father of knowledge and light deem us worthy to enter his domain,” he said. “We bring these offerings of ourselves.” And we fell through. It wasn’t an instant teleport like most of the other portals we’ve used. Instead, it felt like we were gently floating downward. Siscia was even doing goofy somersaults. We landed softly in what looked like the forest near Kyoria. There was a shrine nearby, but before I could get a good look at it, I heard a monotone voice greeting us from behind me, and I turned to see that Duriel was there. They were wearing a new headband, made of black scales with a white horizontal stripe through it, and they were holding a bow, which they handed off to Scylla. “There is a story, but I cannot tell you,” they said. “There were people who were helping me locate the remaining artifacts, and they found these two.” Maeric was with him, but he looked like he was basically broken. He was covered in dry blood and he was rummaging around, absentmindedly picking leaves and shredding them to pieces, muttering repeatedly, “Your truth may not be your truth.” He didn’t pay us any attention until Siscia went up to him and gently asked him what he was doing. “They’re gone, they’re all gone,” he said, not looking at her. “They were ripped apart right in front of me.” He continued ripping apart leaves as he returned to repeating “Your truth may not be your truth.” “We met up with him yesterday,” Duriel said. “He’s been like that the whole time.” He seemed agitated by Siscia and Shaper trying to talk to him, but Top of Bottle was finally able to convince him to sit down with us and take a break. Nion, who had been trying to subtly check if his ring was reacting, placed his ringed hand on his shoulder. Maeric reached up with one of his own hands and placed it on top of Nion’s. “That’s warm,” he sighed. He looked at Top of Bottle and asked him if he could play a song. Eventually, looking, well, maybe not better exactly but at any rate a little more coherent, he said, “It’s Connah. She’s possessed by something.” He told us about how she had ripped apart the raiding party, Anna sacrificing herself to buy more time for him to get away. He was going to go and warn the rest of the guild but then almost everyone else was dead. He wasn’t sure how he ended up with Duriel; he said he felt like he was overtaken by a great darkness, and it had led him here. From what we could tell, he’d been at least somewhat corrupted, and Nion had successfully cleansed it—but, obviously, he was also experiencing a different sort of pain, and there was unfortunately nothing we could do about that. At this point, Eli brushed up against the shrine, and the statue within it lit up. It was a statue of Ageor the Wise, but as Eli touched it, it spoke with a warm, soothing, and very familiar-sounding voice: “Ezra, you are my arrogance.” Eli recoiled from it in alarm, but Siscia was of course eager to touch it herself now, and it reacted to her as well: “Siscia, you are my heart.” “Interesting,” said Parath, who was suddenly among us again, as the rest of us lined up to touch the statue. (The most notable reaction, probably, was that it proclaimed Udorash as “my castle.”) “This seems to be from when Aureon was anointing them as his Chosen. This place used to be filled with things of Aureon, but it looks like this statue’s the only thing left.” “Something happened here,” Scylla observed. “Was it Dramul?” Nion asked. “Yes, Dramul destroyed everything, apparently.” “Does this mean Aureon is weakening?” Scylla asked. “Long ago, Aureon went into a slumber, while Dramul was sealed somewhere else,” Parath explained. “But in the absence of you all, there were still happenings with the shadow that Aureon was asleep for. I assume the Kyorians just weren’t able to hold back the darkness.” We decided at that point that we should probably head on to Kyoria. As we approached, we saw that it was no longer deserted. The slide thing had been replaced with a finely molded staircase, and the skeletons had all been cleaned up, apparently buried near the sides of the cavern. There were four hooded figures atop the gates. “Oh shit—sound the alarm!” one of them exclaimed as he saw us. Nion started to cast Hold Person, but Lionel, clearly not messing around, fucking disintegrated two of them into dust. Nion looked at Lionel and then cast Dominate Person on the remaining guards and began questioning them. Eventually we learned that Dramul and all of the lieutenants were at Kyoria, preparing for an attack. Jagal seemed to have deserted them; they called her a traitor. There was an artifact in the crypt, but they couldn’t open it. Nion had them throw their weapons away, off the wall. “This is all fake,” Eli warned them as Nion’s spell wore off. “Your lives are worth more than some falsehood by a false god.” Intimidated, they came down and let us tie them up. Their story was similar to Trip’s; they said they had been promised a good life where everything they wanted could be theirs—they wouldn’t ever go hungry, their families would be well-taken-care-of, and so forth. “Oh, your families are going to be well-taken-care-of?” Maeric said bitterly. “I remember when mine was.” And he slit their throats. We looked at him in alarm, except for Lionel, who found the whole thing hilarious. Eli, though, reminded us that we needed to get going before more guards found us. The plan we ended up coming up with was for Siscia to transform us all into bats, and for us to just fly to the crypt, hopefully unnoticed by whoever was in the city. And the plan actually worked pretty well, until we reached the shrine itself, and a hooded figure sitting outside it looked right up at us. It was Connah, but she had an eyepatch over one eye, and her visible eye was pitch black. “Oh my,” she said, the total lack of warmth making her voice sound rather eerie, “You’ve really entered the proverbial lion’s den, haven’t you? Long time, no see, Chosen.” She laughed coldly. “What would possess you to come all this way when you can save us all are just going to die?” It took me a moment to process this last bit—was the real Connah still in there somewhere? Maeric and Duriel, possibly hearing the same thing, started to descend. Lionel tried to get them to hold up, but they didn’t listen. “Why is your plan so bad?” Lionel asked Connah. He said he was genuinely curious and not trying to be insulting. She just laughed and continued, not answering him, “I assume you came for I’m so sorry the Archer’s armor. Well I wasn’t strong enough you aren’t getting it.” There was no pause in between not-Connah’s taunting and the parts that sounded like actual-Connah peeking out; the worlds were just jumbled together without punctuation, as if the two Connahs were trying to speak at the same time. There was no indication that not-Connah—Dramul?—was aware this was happening. There were tears coming now from underneath Connah’s eyepatch. “Oh my this it’s been exactly one year should be interesting since you were here with me,” they said. Lionel said he thought Dramul and Aureon would work better together. “I don’t need to justify you should run my plans to you,” they said. “It took me centuries to I tried to resist get back here but please forgive me now I’m here and I’m going to keep resisting kill you all damn it!” We had descended by now. Top of Bottle for some reason thought it was a good idea to dive-bomb Connah, I think going for her eyepatch, but she easily plucked him out of the air. He screeched as he turned back into feline form, his fur withered and dark, and then she flung him with great force into the side of a building. Siscia released the rest of us from bat form, and Duriel and Maeric charged. Duriel held their shield up, deflecting a powerful blow, and Connah burst into flames as she made contact with the shield. Maeric looked back toward us. “You need to get this artifact and finish this!” he said, just before he threw something to the ground. There was a flash of smoke and light and then all three of them were gone. We took a moment to gather ourselves. Top of Bottle got shakily to his feet, and Nion and Lionel went over to cleanse him. We noticed there were a bunch of dreadlocks—much like Trip’s—scattered on the ground near where Connah had been. I felt a little like I had felt walking through the burnt forest on the way back from Kirin’s tower. In one sense, what I’d most feared had come to pass; in another, actually seeing it come to pass—while not great—wasn’t everything I had feared. My feelings were a strange mixture of despair, dread, and relief. Connah, it seemed, was Dramul—or, at least, she was now. But, at the same time, the Connah we’d known seemed to still be there, fighting it. Maybe this meant that she was doomed, not only to be possessed, but to be aware of it, unable to stop it; maybe there was no remaining possibility of saving our Connah from Dramul. But, on the other hand, maybe there was. Maeric’s repetition of the phrase notwithstanding, I’d originally assumed that “Your truth may not be your truth” meant that one of our friends was going to turn out to have been Dramul all along, which would have been far worse than what seemed to have actually happened. But I don’t think Connah betrayed us; I think she was possessed or taken over. I think that our Connah is stuck under the surface of this not-Connah—which is terrible, but at least it means that our Connah did exist. It wasn’t all a lie; she was our friend. As a result, there remains at least a sliver of hope that she might still be saved. The outer part of the temple had been redecorated with all sorts of Dramul paraphernalia, but the inner part, where the tombs were, was completely untouched—except that on the floor was Trip, his eyes wide open, staring lifelessly. I guess that explained the dreadlocks. After some investigation, Nion found a weird wall that he thought looked like it had been put up after all the other walls. Shaper started hacking away at it and eventually revealed a mural—the others said it reminded them of the one beneath Sharn. It sort of told a story, depicting glorified heroes, tombs, someone dressed in Aureon garb putting a hand on a tomb, and a bright light coming from a tomb. At this point, I noticed Kirin’s tome was showing a silver-white lining on one of the pages. A single sentence on that page—not in Common—was glowing, and as I tried reading it out, the symbols around the tombs started to light up. Shaper opened up the tombs and found Hunter’s armor on Zyn’s skeleton. He collected it; it smelled, but he didn’t seem to mind. We wanted to check back outside to see if we could find any trace of Maeric and Duriel, but when Lionel poked his head out the door, all of the lieutenants were there. “Are you kidding me?” Ben said, annoyed. “How did you even get in there?” They started to run at us but Lionel shut the door in their faces. There was a sizzling sound and grunts of pain; it sounded like some sort of magic was preventing them from getting in. There was nothing else left to do here, so Lionel collected some rock pieces on the off-chance we needed to teleport back, and then I teleported us to Trolanport. There were like forty people in the guild hall and we landed right on top of them, but they cheered when they realized who we were, Sofia diving on top of Lionel. There were a bunch of faces I recognized from Sharn—even Madame fucking Mi was there. After things had calmed down a bit, remembering how Nion’s ring had been repaired and thinking about Delphine, I suggested that he test it out on Tiago. He awkwardly went over and started asking Tiago about his battle with the tentacle shadow. Tiago talked about how it wasn’t really much of a battle and they were barely able to escape with their lives; he said he’d felt normal since then, aside from the fact that his arm was gone. Nion finally mentioned that I suspected corruption; Tiago seemed hesitant but willing to hear him out. Nion put his hand on his shoulder, and Tiago seemed to relax. “That’s warm,” he said. “It’s kind of nice—you gonna massage me too?” The ring was glowing, though not as much as it had when Nion cleansed Maeric. “I feel like everything is just clearer right now,” Tiago said afterwards, “though I’m kind of tired now.” Delphine did come by later, but she was less willing to play along than Tiago had been. She said she’d think about it. At first she tried to procrastinate until the Dramul situation was over—in other words, until it wouldn’t really matter anymore. When I pushed her a bit more, she said she’d sleep on it and maybe deal with it in the morning, though the way she said this didn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of confidence. Her recalcitrance was making me really uncomfortable—I really didn’t want to force something upon her when she kept saying no, but leaving her corrupted felt like playing with fire. Nion came knocking on my door early the next morning. “We’ve got a situation,” he said grimly. He continued on toward the others without elaborating, but I knew it must have been quite a situation for him to be up so early. There was a crowd of people outside, Eli and Tiago pushing people back from where Duriel and Maeric’s bodies lay on the ground. They were in perfect condition, their hands folded over their chests, Duriel with their khopesh neatly pointed downward, Maeric clutching a lock of brown hair. There was no sign of how they had died, but they were clearly dead. “They just appeared here,” Tiago explained. “No one saw anything.” “It’s probably safe to assume Dramul did this,” Eli added. I stood there for a moment, not sure what to do or say. Neither of them had been exactly my best friend, and I’d known that this was the most likely outcome when they’d disappeared with not-Connah, but it was still a very sobering moment. We investigated the bodies for traps or corruption but couldn’t find anything, so we brought them inside. There was some discussion of how we might scrounge up money to reincarnate or resurrect them. Someone brought up Speak With Dead and I suggested that the spell sounded like something Tiago might be into, and he gave me a look but then admitted I was right. There were only so many questions we could ask them, and there was much they didn’t know themselves, but Duriel said that Dramul took them to the Mournland and defeated them there. Their headband, which Siscia had noticed was missing, was in the Chasm. Maeric said he’d originally taken them to the World Tree before Dramul moved them again. They got there via research that Connah learned in Kyoria as a child; that was where the device he’d used had come from. “How can we save Connah?” Nion asked him. “She’s already gone,” he said hopelessly. We just looked at each other as the spell expired, not sure what to do now. Nion took some of the hair Maeric was clutching, since it was presumably Connah’s, and it was conceivable that we might want to scry her at some point. I was trying to figure out if the World Tree thing was a hint toward a solution or a dead end, as Lionel wondered aloud why Dramul hadn’t just eaten the World Tree. “Oh!” Siscia suddenly blurted out. “I might know where the staff is—was?—is!” “I’m sorry?” Eli asked, not following her train of thought. “I was gonna tell you guys but things happened! I had a dream,” she explained. “I saw Seamus and we had a very nice discussion—well, mostly him because I didn’t know what was happening—in the place with the mountains that are gone now, the sun was like scorching hot… What’s that place called? Seer?” “Cyre?” “I saw Seamus there! He had the staff. I’m pretty sure that might be where maybe he died? He kept asking me if I remembered how to get there, and I didn’t remember how to get there. He said, ‘Reach far into the green that fills my eyes,’ but I don’t know what that means.” We didn’t either. We decided we might as well go after the staff, since that was the best plan we had for dealing with Dramul, but we’d have to go the long way, via horse—Siscia tried her transport via plants spell but it didn’t work. Eli made travel arrangements while I made a quick trip to the library to grab some books to help me work on my spellcasting and whatever I could find about the Mournland, though I didn’t have time to do an especially thorough search. I returned to see them pouring over a map—Siscia looked confused, as if she had never seen a map before—discussing how Siscia’s dream and what Duriel had said both seemed to be pointing to the Glowing Chasm. As we departed, Tiago said he’d look into getting Maeric and Duriel resurrected. We went to say goodbye to Delphine. I asked her again if she’d thought about the cleansing, and she was trying to put it off again when Lionel interrupted: “Hey, can you give us a hand? Nion needs some help with his cape.” Bemused, she let Nion come up to her. “I’m sorry,” he said and touched her shoulder. Abruptly there were cannons pointed at Nion. “What are you doing?” Delphine asked coldly. “I believe this is for the greater good,” Nion said. Delphine looked at me, furious. “This is not Cedric’s doing,” Nion said. Lionel agreed. After a tense moment, Delphine dropped her arms, letting the cannons fade. “Alright, fine,” she said, sounding resigned. “Just get it over with.” As when Nion had cleansed Tiago, Delphine seemed to relax as the ring did its work. “Wow,” she said, “I feel… good right now?” She seemed surprised. The ring was glowing really brightly, significantly more so than it had for Maeric or Tiago. “No headaches?” Nion asked. She shook her head. He held the ring against her until the glow started to fade, Delphine looking significantly better—I don’t know, something about her was brighter and more vibrant. “I feel like I’m full of energy now,” she said. I’m pretty sure she’s still mad at—or at least annoyed with—me for my role in all of this, but we’ll be gone for long enough that she’ll have time to cool off, and I’m hoping that by the time we’re back she’ll be happy just to see me alive again. Or, if not, we can talk it out, and it’ll be fine afterwards. I’m not worried; if I can face Dramul, I can face Delphine. We were just trying to protect her. While I respect her willingness and ability to protect herself—I must admit, I was impressed by the quick reaction with the cannons, even as I was alarmed to see Nion get dragged into the middle of all this—it seems less than wise to be gifted an artifact by a god to deal with this exact situation, and then not to use it. I’m enormously grateful to Nion and Lionel for their help; it’s a huge relief not to have to worry about this anymore. I hope that Delphine herself eventually comes to see it the same way. Before we left, we also visited Rhea and Sofia and cleansed them, though their corruption was comparatively minor. They told us they’d decided they’d join our guild, since everyone in their guild was dead. There was a commotion near the gate: another one of those shining avatar things—fortunately in humanoid rather than dragon form—was trying to get into the city to cleanse the people of corruption. The guards were terrified. After verifying that it wasn’t planning on hurting anyone, we sent it to the guild hall to let Tiago deal with it and continued on our way. The road so far has been much like the road north of Woodhelm, with guard patrols everywhere, and likely because of this, the journey has been uneventful. Eli says it’ll be a little over two weeks until we reach our destination. I’ve got quite a bit of reading to do in the meantime. [A week later] We’ve passed Sterngate, and now we’re headed toward New Cyre. At one point, we started seeing red smoke billowing above the trees, just off the trail. It turned out to be rising from a floating red orb. Lionel said it reminded him of when he saw the vision of his mother in the dreamworld where we rescued Connah (or, it occurs to me now, maybe we didn’t rescue her after all—maybe we were too late, and that was what paved the way for what’s happened since). Dared by Top of Bottle, Eli touched the orb. It glowed a little brighter and the smoke billowed a bit towards the rest of us, but nothing further happened. Through some trial and error we figured out that it was billowing specifically towards Siscia, so she tried touching it, and everything went gray—it was another one of those silhouette visions. Jagal stood confronting a group of seven dwarves, one of them, Seamus, standing in front of the others. “You know you can’t beat me, old friend,” he said. “Not like this.” “You may have sealed her away,” Jagal said, “but my promise will come true whether you believe it or not.” “We’ve witnessed the future in the stars,” another one of the dwarves said. “Until he’s reached his destination you’ll not interfere. This is bigger than any of us.” Two of the dwarves drew their weapons and charged, while Seamus and the remaining dwarves teleported away. At this point, the silhouettes faded, leaving us to wonder what we were meant to learn from this vision. [Another week later] We approach the Mournland; I think we’ll get there sometime tomorrow. The books I got from the library about the Mournland were a bit of a disappointment. Most of what they covered was either history or vague advice not to go there. I’ve ended up focusing more on my own general study of magic, which is admittedly pretty awkward on horseback, but I’d still rather have this time than not have it. For the time being, I’m trying to do what I can to fill in some of my weaknesses. But I suspect that, eventually, I’ll need to do something bolder if we are to come out on top against Dramul, and I figure I’d better start laying the groundwork for imagining what that might look like.
  15. Excerpt from Cedric’s Journal [Session Notes 4/7] Woodhelm didn’t have anyplace big enough to house all of us, but the idea of sleeping in actual beds was still pretty appealing, so we split up into smaller groups for the night. I was with Siscia. I was woken up early in the morning by a massive crash, as if the place we were staying in had just been hit by a battering ram, and I jolted upright, momentarily thinking we were under attack—but no, it was just Siscia being weird. She had summoned a dryad for some reason, but the dryad—which was obviously part-tree, in this case a fairly big part—didn’t actually fit in the room we were in, and furniture was smashed and strewn across the floor and the ceiling was now buckling outward. She was apologizing profusely. “What are you doing, Siscia?” I asked, rolling my eyes. “I just had a thing I wanted to do,” she said, as if it were obvious, “so I called a friend, you know?” “Where are we?” asked the dryad, sounding startled and confused. Siscia, very verbosely, proceeded to ask the dryad for a favor. She wanted to know how she might go about getting a gourd. “Well,” the dryad said, still sounding confused, “you can hollow out a pumpkin and then dry it.” “That’s great advice—do you have one?” “Hmm, do you mean, like, one of the ones from our sacred grove?” “Yes!” Siscia exclaimed enthusiastically. “Like that!” “Oh.” “Oh?” The dryad hesitated. “And you said you’d be willing to do me a favor?” She had indeed, and she emphatically indicated that she was a big friend to woodland beings. The dryad reached out and grabbed us by the foreheads—both of us, even though I had only been watching up until that point—and suddenly we were in a redwood forest, surrounded by huge, ancient trees towering hundreds or maybe even approaching a thousand feet above us. There was also a single oak tree in front of us, also exceptionally large, but instead of soaring upwards like the redwoods it stretched outward, blanketing a huge area around us with its shade. “We’re in the feywild, aren’t we?” I asked, now very alarmed. Yes, we were. “This is my home,” the dryad explained, “but I do have a bit of a problem. It is very nearly my daughter’s birthday. Whenever a young dryad reaches the age of 13, she must find a tree of her own, and if she does not by the first full moon after her birthday, which is a week and a half away, she will perish—she will wither and she will die. The nearest oak trees are several days to the south; as you know, we cannot leave our trees for very long, and I cannot escort her myself.” “I can do it—I’m an adventurer!” proclaimed a cheerful voice from behind the oak tree. The young dryad came around the tree and skipped toward us. She wore a plain dress decorated with little flowers, and she had flowers and feathers artfully arranged in her hair. She looked really excited to see us; she was brimming with energy. Siscia, excited too, gushed about how we were going to help her find the very best tree. “I already had a friend who was going to help,” the older dryad continued, “but more would be better.” She gestured toward a fairy who I hadn’t noticed previously (or maybe he just wasn’t there until now, who knows in the feywild). He approached us, considering. He was maybe three and a half feet tall, with wild, green hair and emerald-green butterfly wings. He looked at Siscia, who was clearly at home here, and nodded approvingly. He looked at me more skeptically. “I don’t know if I trust him,” he indicated. “He has magic about him, and he doesn’t look like he belongs in the feywild.” I couldn’t disagree with that, but Siscia vouched for me, assuring him that I was one of her best friends and that we had gone over the importance of being careful with fire in forests. “He has nice eyes,” the younger dryad observed, “and he appears to be a kind boy.” “How long will this take?” I asked, not sure if I really wanted to know the answer. “I mean, I know time is weird here—how long will we be gone?” “At worst, you’ll be gone for a few weeks,” the older dryad said. I felt the blood draining from my face, imagining the consequences of such an absence. “If we’re gone for weeks, the world is liable to be consumed by darkness,” I said quietly. Even if it wasn’t, we would cause so much pain to our friends—and for what? A gourd? “Well, why are we still talking, then?” the younger dryad asked impatiently. “Let’s go!” The older one, though, considered for a moment and then indicated that she thought she could stabilize us, so that, as long as we didn’t dawdle too much, we’d only lose a few hours at most. Then, she kissed each of us—thinking about it now makes me pretty uncomfortable, but I guess it ended up working. The two dryads exchanged a heartfelt goodbye, and then we began our journey. We introduced ourselves—the dryad was Euphony or Euphy, and the fairy was Kyonwe. Both of them were very energetic and playful. Euphy was constantly stopping as we walked to collect rocks and look at flowers and talk to trees; Kyonwe was flitting from flower to flower, pollinating them or something, making many of them smell great but some of them smell terrible—I think he was doing this on purpose, because he kept looking at our faces and giggling every time we passed a flower that smelled like skunk. Siscia was in her element, excitedly agreeing with Euphy about how great everything was and constantly laughing at Kyonwe, even after he’d made the exact same joke like fifteen times. It was like I was traveling with three of her instead of one. And, look, Siscia is one of my best friends, and I much preferred being here to help her over making her do this on her own, and if the dryad had bothered to ask for my permission before dragging me into the feywild I still would have come, and it was nice to see her happy—but one of her can be a lot sometimes. I wasn’t sure if I could take three. I couldn’t really tell how much time was passing. It felt like we walked for hours, but the sun wasn’t moving in the sky at all. The forest, though impressive enough at first glance, was all looking the same to me. I was starting to wonder if something fishy was going on, but I wasn’t in a hurry to point this out, lest the others call me out for not appreciating forests enough. Eventually, we started to hear music coming from up ahead—an assortment of fiddles and lutes and other such instruments. I could see the others starting to move along with the music. Euphy, wanting to make the most of her one and only adventure, wanted to go check it out. While I couldn’t really blame her for feeling that way, I was more distrustful of what we might find. To my surprise, Siscia took my side in this—she said the music gave her a bad feeling and we should probably go around it. “Look,” she said to Euphy, “I know this tiny tabaxi who plays the best music. I promise that we’ll come to visit, and then he can play you a song, and it’ll be so much better!” “I don’t know what that is,” said Euphy, who I guess had never seen a tabaxi before. “Imagine this cute, furry—” I began before Siscia preempted the description by turning into a cat herself. “Yeah, like that,” I said, “but cuter.” Euphy, enthralled, picked up Siscia and gave her a big hug. “So, are we going to this party or not?” Kyonwe asked. Siscia hissed in response. “Will we even be able to avoid it?” I asked. “This is the feywild—I doubt it’ll be as simple as just walking around it.” Siscia, after transforming back, said that she thought we might be able to get around if we could avoid being enchanted. She suggested that we sing our own song. I had zero interest in singing, but as a compromise, I fished around in my bag until I found the pan flute I’d gotten on a previous trip to the feywild. I played a few notes experimentally; it actually sounded pretty good. Siscia, impressed, motioned for me to continue, and I did. I had no idea what I was doing, but as far as I can tell, it actually worked. It must be some fey bullshit, because the last time I played it in the feywild it also sounded inexplicably good, but it’s sounded terrible—as it should—whenever I’ve tried to play it elsewhere. Anyway, after a moment, Siscia joined in, singing at the top of her lungs, utterly terribly. Euphy started echoing behind her, and she was even worse somehow—I think she was just singing random words, with no melody at all, and then she started clapping her hands at arbitrary, irregular intervals, and it was really more of a cacophony than a song. But our noise—I won’t call it music—did succeed in drowning out the sounds of the other music, so we kept it up as we resumed walking. As we passed, we saw blurred images—spirits or something, I guess—dancing in circles around a bonfire as ghostly instruments floated through the air, playing themselves. There were some other figures, some of them very thin and decaying away, being pulled along like puppets on strings. I shuddered as I saw them, glad that I wasn’t one of them. After we put some distance between us and the bonfire, I abruptly noticed it was dusk. There was no transition; the sun just went from not moving at all to full-on dusk. Siscia proceeded to set up camp for the night, magically casting a bubble of some sort that she said would protect us. I made one of my books glow to give us light. Euphy was still sad about having missed the party, so I tried to convince her we’d make our own fun, and she seemed to actually believe me. I started rummaging through my bag, trying to think of what else I could pull out to entertain her, before thinking better of it and—trying to distract everyone’s attention away from me—asking Siscia to tell us a story about herself from before she joined the guild. I guess, the whole thing with the gourd—which was still inexplicable to me—had gotten me thinking that I didn’t really know that much about where she’d come from or what it was like. But it actually seemed like she didn’t really know either. She said she wasn’t sure whether she was 40 or 400 years old. She doesn’t know who her parents are or were, just that she’s traveled a lot. She talked about how she’d come to Sharn for the first time and been fascinated, having never seen anything like it before, and how she’d decided to try hanging out with other people for once, to see what it was like. This, of course, led Euphy and Kyonwe to ask me for my story, and I told them a bit, but the less that’s said of that, the better. I’ll just say that I really did empathize with Euphy’s desire for adventure. The thought of being stuck in one place for all your life, not able to explore or to see anything beyond your immediate surroundings, sounds like torture. Something along those lines was why I went to Sharn in the first place. Accordingly, unhappy as I was to be in the feywild, I found myself warming toward Euphy. It helped that there was an innocent sweetness to her that I instinctively felt driven to protect. We should have set up a watch before we went to sleep, but Siscia said her magic bubble thing would keep us safe, and I trusted her. To be fair, it worked as promised—but we didn’t think to account for the possibility that Euphy, too excited to sleep, would wander off. Kyonwe woke Siscia and me up in the middle of the night to tell us that she had gone missing. We called out to her, but she didn’t respond. I made a light and we looked around until Kyonwe spotted tracks she’d made, which we proceeded to follow. Eventually we saw, ahead of us, a heavily armored humanoid figure dragging a sack, with two companions skulking through the night ahead of him. I cast Slow to slow them down, and we raced ahead to catch up. Our enemies were drow, I saw as we got closer. The armored figure dropped the sack as he turned to face us; he motioned toward his companions, who spread out, pulled out crossbows and started firing at Siscia and me. Kyonwe and I distracted them, Kyonwe with his shortbow and I with some targeted lightning strikes, while Siscia teleported in, grabbed the sack, and cut Euphy free. Euphy backed away, putting distance between herself and her former captors, and conjured a massive swarm of terrifying insects that immediately set themselves upon the leader and one of the others. Angered by the lightning strike, the leader started charging toward me, hefting a greatsword alarmingly. I admit that I panicked a bit, seeing him running at me—and suddenly, I found myself casting Kirin’s shield spell, not thinking about it, just doing what came naturally. It worked perfectly, as if I actually knew what I was doing, and the drow slammed into the wall. As he felt around in confusion (I’d surrounded him like Kirin had done with the shadow in the dream, keeping him well away from me) it dawned on me that I finally understood how someone like me could be Kirin’s legitimate successor after all—because, it turned out, Kirin’s signature barrier spell wasn’t cast using abjuration magic; it used evocation magic! So many things that I'd been baffled by for all this time finally clicked into place; I think I might have laughed like an idiot once I realized what I’d just done. The leader shouted to his companions to attack. One of them dipped a bolt in liquid of some sort and took a shot at me, but missed. The other ran out of the swarm toward Euphy, grabbed her, and held a blade to her throat. I hesitated, but Kyonwe, unfazed, fired two brilliant arrows that passed right past Euphy and sliced open the side of the drow’s face. At the same time, Siscia, who had just suddenly remembered we had Aureon magic, summoned this huge winged serpent thing—a coatl maybe? I’m not sure she even knew what it was, but she greeted it as a friend and then set it on the drow holding Euphy. The momentum from the two attacks knocked him backward, away from her, and he fell to the ground. Relieved to see that Euphy wasn’t in immediate danger, I turned my attention back to the leader. I tried to crush him with the walls like Kirin had done, but he was stronger than the shadow had been, and he pushed outwards, temporarily holding the walls at bay. Still, his armor was clearly beginning to squeeze inwards, and he looked very uncomfortable. “Stop messing around and attack the wizard already!” he shouted to his remaining companion. The latter obliged and fired another shot. This one hit me right in the chest, and a fierce, fiery pain spread outward from where the bolt hit, worse than the initial impact, making me drop the Kirin-wall as I doubled over, gasping. The closest thing I could compare it to was the time Trip hit me with a lightning bolt; it fucking hurt. But then, Kyonwe came completely out of nowhere and shot the drow, who was focused on me, in the back of the neck, taking him down. Siscia teleported next to me and began treating my wound. All that was left now was the leader. Euphy, who was the closest to him, turned up her charm, smiling at him. She was covered in blood, but it evidently worked, because after staring at her for a moment he began smiling vacantly, waving toward her. “See,” she said, “if you’d just let me talk, we could be friends!” “Well, this is a happy ending!” Siscia remarked to me, still half holding me upright. “I thought you’d fetch a nice price,” the drow was saying, sounding befuddled, “but that was a mistake—why would I think something like that?” “Top of Bottle would have loved this dryad,” I said to Siscia. We asked the drow if he had any more friends around (that he could “introduce us to”), but he didn’t. He’d gotten into the feywild through a rift (“you just have to know where they are”). We told him he should just go home, but made him leave his weapons and armor with us. Euphy repeated these suggestions so that they’d stick. As he departed northward, Euphy ran toward us and burst into tears, hugging Siscia and me tightly as she apologized for wandering off. She said she hadn’t been tired and she’d just wanted to explore and she’d been so scared. At this point, we were just glad she was safe. We held her until she was ready to go back to our camp. We collected the stuff the drow had left behind and stuffed it into Siscia’s bag of holding. Siscia shrugged toward the coatl, which hadn’t ultimately actually done very much, and thanked it for coming to help her in any case. In the morning, we found ourselves surrounded by elves prodding at Siscia’s bubble curiously. They ended up having a conversation with the others in (I think) sylvan. They looked very friendly, though looking at them, especially a certain blue-haired one, made me feel sad for some reason. Siscia told me afterwards that they’d said they were patrolling for poachers, and that we’d assured them we were okay. After maybe four or five hours of uneventful travel, we started leaving the redwoods behind and entering a more typical section of forest, comprised of maples and other types of trees (I don’t know; I’m not an expert on trees). But it increasingly seemed like there was a sickness of some sort in the area, with trees withering and losing their leaves. Then, we reached a clearing where all of the trees were dead and crumbling like ash. There were stone statues scattered around—animals, birds, and people just lying on the ground, with expressions of terror on their faces. Some of the statues looked like they’d been there for a long time; some looked newly carved. It looked to me like the work of basilisks. I recalled a line I’d read in a book at one point, something along the lines of “No one carves statues of frightened warriors.” Siscia and Kyonwe thought about trying to heal the forest, but we agreed that we couldn’t take Euphy here. Apparently the elves had warned us of this place and said we should go around. Euphy, nevertheless, really wanted to help; she was talking to all the still-living trees and putting her ear to the ground, trying to figure out if there was anything we could do. We finally convinced her to move on, but not before she wrung a promise out of Siscia that she’d try to take us here the next time we’re in the feywild. We rested for the night in a much more pleasant grove full of young oak trees. Euphy, though she’d been sullen after we hadn’t helped the forest around the basilisk nest, started perking up again; she was looking for something more established than these young trees, but we were getting close. She promised not to wander off in the night again this time, and the night passed uneventfully. The forest around us was surrounded by a deep mist in the morning. Alarmed, I realized that our surroundings were wrong—the trees had changed, and now there were hundreds of small mushrooms on the ground around us. Kyonwe apologetically admitted that he had no idea where we were, even though he’d lived his whole life in this area. He and Siscia suggested that there were likely fairies around, messing with us. Just as they said this, we heard giggling. I realized that we were surrounded by many fairies—like, hundreds. Realizing there were illusions about, I prepared a True Seeing spell, deciding that being able to see past fairy bullshit was worth the cost of the expensive ointment. We were, in fact, exactly where we had gone to sleep; the mushrooms were real, though, as well as the fairies. Kyonwe started to tell them about our mission, but he didn’t get very far before turning into a small pig. Euphy squealed in delight and picked him up, hugging him. “That’s a good one, guys!” Siscia laughed nervously. She started to pick up where Kyonwe had left off, and she flinched as I think they targeted her too, but she shrugged it off and kept going. The fairies just taunted her. “We’re not done yet!” one laughed in a sing-song voice. “We’ll have our fun yet!” chimed in a second one. “You can’t run yet!” sang a third. And so on—soon they were all singing. Illusory lights began dancing in the air around us. “The biggest thing to fear is traps,” Siscia said to me. “Since you have the best vision, you should probably take point.” Euphy abruptly transformed into a dog-sized brontosaurus. “One foot in front of the other, no matter how many feet there are!” Siscia proclaimed more loudly in her nervous-but-trying-to-be-cheerful voice. “We are gonna be fine!” I threw up a globe of invulnerability to ward off any additional polymorphs, at least for a time, drawing upon the abjuration magic that Kirin had tricked me into forcing myself to learn. The fairies groaned as I began leading the others through the illusory terrain. There were numerous traps, as Siscia had warned—triplines and pitfalls and stuff—though I got the impression that they were more on the level of pranks than anything intended to be dangerous. We stuck close together, and the fairies seemed to get bored as we avoided the traps and started drifting away. Finally, we left them behind, and everyone reverted to their normal form. We reached a river and began traveling alongside it as Euphy started paying closer attention to the trees around us. These oaks were bigger, and it was just a matter of finding the one that felt right. Then, there it was—the river split up ahead, and there was a big oak in the center, the water flowing around it on either side. Euphy stopped and began staring at it, her face full of wonder. We crossed the river, and as she approached the tree she broke out into a huge smile. She hugged us in gratitude—Siscia made sure to get the tree in on the hug—as she enthused about how great the tree was and how happy she was that we had been with her to help her find it. She asked if we promised we’d visit, and Siscia was quick to do so; she noted that time is weird so she couldn’t say when she’d visit, but she’d do so eventually, excited to see Euphy again. Euphy asked her to bring her news of the grove with the statues, even if it was bad news. I let them talk, reluctant to promise anything myself. It’s not that I didn’t like Euphy—quite the opposite!—and Kyonwe had grown on me too, which I suppose is the sort of thing that happens when someone saves you like he did (not to mention, he compared very favorably to the other fairies we’d met). I just wasn’t eager to commit to another trip to the feywild. If Siscia summoned either of them, I wouldn’t mind seeing them again. Siscia summoned Euphy’s mom so that we could let her know we’d been successful. Euphy was practically bouncing around as she eagerly showed off her new tree. She recounted the entire adventure in one breath, including the scary parts. “It was so much fun!” she concluded. The mother presented Siscia with the gourd she’d asked for; Siscia seemed to think it was perfect and thanked the dryad profusely. The latter reached out and touched both of us on the forehead, and suddenly we were back in Woodhelm. The room was still a complete mess, so we didn’t seem to have been gone for too long. Both dryads came with us to say goodbye. I was sorry to see them go—as much as I dislike the feywild, I don’t mind making new friends.
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