“Mastery is achieved when “telling time” becomes “telling time what to do.”
Without warning Raza disappeared and turned back into Aria. Manriki was pleased by this. Aria was a little shaken by the experience.
The party left the Hall of Eternals and proceeded into the “Time Fountain.” After a moment’s discomfort, they found a large hole in the ground on the other side of the flow of time, with a set of stairs spiraling down into it.
They followed this stair down into a cavern that seemed to go straight on into the darkness forever. Aria lit a torch and the party started walking. After several hours, Dogar realized that
they were very subtly spiraling inward- so subtly that they didn’t notice the shift. After walking for 8 hours, they were still in darkness and nothing had changed. Dogar did some tracking and found a piece of yellow linen, brittle with age, stuck in a crack of the wall.
After waking, they walked for another 9 hours, and right at the end of the 9th hour, they thought they saw something. Dogar skulked forward to investigate.
He found a hugely muscled goliath suspended from a tree which was growing (audibly, if not visibly) through his body. His nonmagical gear hung in weathered tatters from his body and an
enormous axe lay on the ground. His knees and shins had some (relatively) recent scarring, but it was hard to tell, as the majority of his body was covered in battle scars, with some
strange scarring on his face that looked like writing. A soft golden glow seeped from his (tightly clenched) right fist. Manriki and Aria walked up after Dogar told them what was going on. Manriki used detect evil and was taken aback by the overwhelming evil emanating from the tree, or the man, or both.
Dogar and Manriki tried to question him, but he was in too much pain to give much of a coherent response. Manriki cast sublime revelry, which muted the pain enough for Dulok KillAll to identify himself (which reminded Dogar of a dream he had had) and answer a few questions, though Manriki warned him that if he tried to escape, he would end the spell.
(At some point before or after this, Phill realized that the party had forgotten some Really Important Information that Desirra had given them sometime last year. Fortunately, Phill had printed it.)
He and three others, “Little Flame,” “The fat one,” and “The sharp one” had been sent on “one more mission” to steal something that he didn’t know what it was, but it was shiny and it was his. He had ended up in the tree because they were running away and he fell.
Manriki tried to explain the concept of regret and desire to make amends. Dulok did not understand this, nor seem to care about it, much less realize that Manriki was trying to give him an “out.” Dogar and Manriki began arguing about the viability of Manriki’s desire to reform the admitted mass murderer while Aria watched him tear one arm free of his arboreal bonds. Aria yelled “Left arm is free,” but no one paid attention. Then the right arm came free, and Manriki chided Dogar that “this was on him,” as he ended the spell. Dulok tore free anyway with a great cry, branches working their way out of his flesh as he stood and knelt before Manriki, saying “you have tested me well, Shaman,” and running off, stowing the shiny object (which Dogar had at some point mentioned was covered with “timesauce,” which probably sparked Dogar’s interest in it in the first place) in a belt pouch.
Dogar ran after him and tried to trip him, but it didn’t work. Eventually, he managed to get the pouch off of him, but took an axe across the shoulders for his troubles. Manriki ran up and started wrestling Dulok to the ground, for he was a superior wrestler, even though Dulok was arguably stronger.
Manriki told Dulok that he “needed to accept that I am stronger than you,” which was the wrong thing to say.
Dulok’s face contorted with an incandescent rage, and he bellowed “YOU ARE NOT STONGER THAN DULOK!” as he surged to his feet, WWF-style. Dogar and Aria were actually frightened by this display of Terrifying Rage, and even Manriki was shaken a bit. The two of them wrestled back and forth and eventually the goliath freed himself.
Manriki went on the defensive, casting a well-placed moon bolt to sap Dulok’s strength, then creating a 40’ blade barrier between them, then hurried to rejoin the others as a stymied Dulok began hewing a chunk of rock out of the wall.
The party kept travelling for the next two days without resting after we realized that 1d6 nonlethal damage per hour is largely irrelevant at high levels, and came to a wide entryway filled with more golden light.
The room on the other side was filled with hourglasses of varying sizes and fullnesses, all save one had at least a few of the same shiny objects that Dogar had liberated from Dulok. One of them would fall from the topmost bulb into the bottom, at which point the color would leach out and a haze of golden sand would float up through the ceiling.
At the center of the room stood three figures, each of them made of differing shades of gold. One, the largest of the three, stood slightly to the back of the room, watching the one at the middle with a pained, resigned expression. The second appeared to be in constant agony as it dissolved and reformed as if it were constantly being disintegrated; the debris drifting over to
accumulate in the form of the first. The third figure stood apart from the first two, looking off into the middle distance.
All three of them looked up as the party approached. The one who had been staring snapped a single word, and Aria seized up and began speaking rapidly in a language that neither Dogar nor Manriki understood. Dogar presented the Moment and said that Time had been stolen, but they had brought it back.
The response to that was as unsettling as it was short.
Manriki asked if it was “unfortunate” that the time had been stolen, or that it was returned. He was ignored. A game of Q&A ensued; with the three Abstracts simply ignoring questions that
they chose not to answer, and revealing just as much as they cared to about the situation. Relevant conclusions drawn and admissions made included:
- Time was created to defend Creation from War and his allies. Once a world runs out of Time, it is no longer protected. It is not indicative of system-wide failure, but it is definitely something of a problem.
- Time is self-sustaining to a point. Moments, like the one that Dulok had, can be created by Heroes or especially heroic actions, and a single Moment can essentially “buy” more time. However, it’s important to note that not every Moment is charged with such potential, as well as the fact that each Moment is of varying lengths, which might not be enough to actually make enough time to make a difference.
- The Mists run out of time on an irregular basis, and they are outside the collective noun called “Creation.” Their stealing Time, even by proxy, is “part of the natural order,” and the three of them seemed to have no problem with this.
- Then, Now, and Soon were not happy with their task of protecting Creation from the other Abstracts, resenting being torn from the fabric of Reality to watch themselves die, and looked forward to the End of Time with the fondness that a child has for an upcoming, but far-off birthday.
- After the Moments had been stolen, Irunnia was completely out of Time. The Aspects of Oxia Gensh made a deal with Then, Now and Soon, trading their divinity in exchange for 12 more years. As each year passes, the next Aspect in line will lose their powers.
Manriki decided that the best course of action would be to wage a war of attrition against the Mists, standing guard against whomever they would send the next time their time was running
low, so that they would eventually fade from Reality. Dogar thought this was foolish, and Aria was a little incredulous that the chapter would end this way, with Manriki standing by a doorway.
At some point during this Steve tried to metagame so he could play Raza all the time, and Aria collapsed. A pair of figures, a small girl-child and an older man who seemed well-dressed and in
control, except for something that was slightly off about him, appeared, arguing about the logistics of separating.
Then: She is still flawed.
Now: We sent her out too quickly. The reconditioning is not complete.
Soon: There was no choice. And it would appear she had attracted another Eternal…
The three of them explained contemptuously (and the DM, not so contemptuously,) that Raza was a construct made to record the endings or near-endings of worlds. She had started to develop free will, which was a problem. Her instabilities were exacerbated on her last mission, recording the near-ending of another world, she bore a child, and might have lived out the rest of her days there, if not for the roused anger of the Dark Master, as well as Time interceding on her behalf- she was too valuable to lose to an angry god, even if she were broken.
Aria had been made to subsume the Raza personality, (which had attracted the attentions of the Tormented,) eventually replacing it with one that was more docile and far more controllable. But the actions of the Mists’ minions forced their hands, and Raza/Aria had to go out unfinished. Aria’s pristine psyche had apparently attracted the Eternal Innocent to her, which they also deemed problematic.
Dogar threatened to go back in time about 40 years or so and live out the rest of his life, if that were Manriki’s decision, and Aria knew that she would not be able to remain here, no matter what she did. Soon chided Manriki, mockingly saying that the others “would DIE without him there." Eventually, Dogar left the chamber and slept on the ceiling, Aria went to sleep and Manriki meditated on the choice for 8 hours, eventually deciding that his path was still with the party. They hurried, trying to catch up with Dulok, but saw no trace of him.
The party emerged from the hole and looked around. No sign of him. There were some other questions that the party had for Nalamos that I don’t remember, but people wrote down in real life, and I’ll add later, so they decided to talk to him.
They entered the Hall without incident. Nalamos was waiting, and he was a little more composed. He apologized for his distraction- he had not spoken to mortals in literally ages; the party was the first group he had spoken with since the war, aside from the Stalwart, an elvish wizard, who came in a few years ago, but he really just wanted to know about Time, and hardly cared about what went on here, so he left.
He explained about the Eternals, how they stood against the Abstracts in the war, and how they refused to "pass quietly into the night, so they remained here, though they were free to follow and on occasion empower, mortals. The Eternals travel to/from the lands of the Mists freely, and in fact The Martyr, the same Eternal that walked with Manriki had been there recently, championing a halfling named Arlo Gurglegut.
They are not reincarnating, they accompany the people that they aid, and Nalamos offered some help of his own, considering the situation that their world was in. He deepened and strengthened the bonds between the Party and their attendant Eternals, resulting in some rulsey things that go here.
There was one other mortal who had entered the Hall recently, perhaps a few hours ago. He attracted the attention of the Psychopath…