OMG UBERGAMING WTF

It's About Time.
But we knew that already.

“Mastery is achieved when “telling time” becomes “telling time what to do.”
-“Telling Time

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.

“That is unfortunate.”

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…

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Only in Jersey.
oh, nothing much. We just killed the Incredible Hulk, is all...

“First we crack the shell, then we crack the nuts inside!”
-Rumble, Decepticon (who unfortunately does not appear in this adventure.)

Bruce Banner continued having a seizure. Manriki realized that they needed to get him away from innocents (with a “T,” not a “CE”) for when the “green demon” emerged. A few spells and a purloined mattress later, and the four of them were rushing out of the Motel 6, towards a clearing that Aria had spied off the road.

After some insistence from the players, the DM grudgingly provided an NPC to react to the sight of a 7-foot fat man in a diaper stealing a mattress. Aria and he had a minor argument, which resulted in the little man muttering something about “calling da cops, mang,” pulling out what looked like a metallic clam and poking it, then speaking into it in his strange, heavily-accented dialect of Halfling.

Manriki and Dogar continued to examine Banner, and Manriki tried to use his Taint Exorcist powers to drive the green demon out of the helpless scientist- Banner’s blood seemed to be at war with itself, pulsing the wrong way.

The exorcism worked, and Banner spewed up an immense amount of greenish blood, which congealed and turned into a manlike shape, eventually resolving itself into the form of the Incredible Hulk which the party had fought the day before. The monster looked around and spying Aria, who was making her way from across the clearing some 300 feet away, roared:

“Blonde girl like Banner better than Hulk! Hulk HATE BANNER! HULK HATE YOU!

Dogar tried to trip the monster before he could attack Aria, but he was too strong. In three great leaps, the Hulk landed on the ground in front of her, the shockwave of his landing creating a small crater and throwing the girl off of her feet with serious injury. The Hulk bellowed at her in incoherent rage as Manriki and Dogar sprinted after him.

Manriki channeled his life force into Aria as Dogar began looking for weak spots on the massive green monster. He couldn’t bring it down, but did some damage. The Hulk grabbed Aria, and she tried to kiss him, seeking to soothe the savage beast, but he instead threw her at Manriki, how caught her and absorbed the blow. Within moments, the Hulk was on top of the two of them…

And Dogar was there too, a whirling blur of motion as he reconnected with his Eternal Loose Cannon. He managed to annoy the Hulk so that its attention was on him, then Manriki started to cast a spell.

“Fat man say WORDS! Make Hulk HEAD HURT! Hulk HURT FAT MAN’S HEAD!!!”

The Hulk slammed his hog-sized fist into Manriki’s face, breaking his concentration. Aria stood up and asked the Hulk to “please stop.”

The Hulk kicked her in the chest, sending her flying a hundred and fifty feet, where she bounced to a stop. He then picked up Dogar and threw him, but Dogar managed to land on his feet. As an encore, The Hulk grabbed about a foot of topsoil and whipped it like a carpet, sending a rippling wave through the ground, burying Aria and causing her body to turn to golden sand and evaporate. Dogar evaded the tsunami of earth, and rejoined the fray.

Manriki spoke a holy word, paralyzing the Hulk.

Again.

(DM facepalm)

From the spot where Aria fell, a woman-shaped negative space appeared, and resolved into a shapely half-elf carrying an infernal-looking sword. She strolled over to Dogar and whispered “flank with me” as he sized up the massive green monster, looking for the best place to strike. Manriki detected evil and found some. He continued to concentrate.

Dogar struck home, but not hard enough. The newcomer struck, her blade was actually made of coruscating flame and sank through the Hulk’s tough hide straight to his heart, killing him. The field of Jersey began to evaporate around them, and the party found themselves in another Hall of Heroes.

They traveled through the hallway, Manriki seemed concerned about Aria’s apparent disappearance and the new girl’s (whose name was Raza) “deception.” They came to the end of the hall, where they were met by a tall, careworn humanoid in soft yellow and white robes. This being identified himself as Nalamos, and addressed the party as “Eternals.” a very brief Q&A followed, its shortness compounded by the fact that Aria’s disappearance meant that the list of questions that they had amassed in the Library was gone with her, and Nalamos’ discomfiture around Raza. The main result of this was that the party decided they should talk to Time- Then, Now and Soon, for thier primary concern was with the temporal quandaries that have been plaguing them for a very long time now.

So, with that, they turned and started to leave the Hall of Eternals.

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Hall Pass
Anachronistic silliness ensues. Oh, and Bag of Holding tricks.

Manriki and Aria entered the meeting hall, and Manriki found himself on a beach. The only features were a tower just off the coast and a crenellated wall A small squadron of faeries were circling the tower, and they seemed to be expecting Manriki.

The faeries explained that they were under siege by the enemy commander and his minions as they waited for their own commander to arrive. The enemy commander, a powerful dragon named Darigaaz kept attacking, and the faeries had been holding him off, but they were not powerful enough to kill him, nor he them. But his minions kept running past them and attacking the lands beyond, which was also problematic.

Manriki offered his aid, and after some logistical Q&A, the enemy surged into view. Manriki cast a flurry of spells, including wall of swor- er, blade barrier and a well-placed giant size, wrestled the great dragon to a standstill while the faeries fought various minions, and the dragon withdrew.

A few moments later, nothing happened, and no new defenders arrived, but Manriki felt himself refreshed, as though he had rested for some time and had time to pray. Then the dragon came back, with a new horde of minions. Having learned from the past, Manriki sprang into action again, this time grabbing ahold of the dragon and letting the faeries cheerfully stab him to death while he was unable to defend his kidneys from their well-placed spearthrusts.

Aria, Dogar, and Manriki found themselves in a strange place. A white-tiled filled with strange equipment and soft white lights that buzzed almost irritatingly. Everything in the room was written in Halfling, even though the room’s sole occupant was human. The man looked up at the groups’ approach and demanded that they identify themselves. Aria got a little wise with him, which caused him to fly into a rage, his skin turning green and his muscle mass doubling rapidly. Manriki tried to conjure a wall of force, but the angry man doubled his fists and smashed through it. Dogar retreated before the thing, and Aria kept talking while sidestepping his blows.

Manriki spoke a holy word, and froze this Incredible Hulk in his tracks. The group didn’t know what to do, so after some math and rules lawyering they put him in a bag of holding, thinking to knock him out.

They underestimated the green monster’s constitution, for when they opened the bag, he was enraged and ready to smash. Aria dodged past his flailing, hog-sized fists and looked soulfully into his eyes. The Hulk relented, and the party was able to talk to Bruce Banner, and performed some first-level miracles that go by the name of create food and water This won him over, and Banner explained that they were in a facility in New Jersey. Dogar asked if that was near The Park at The Center, and Bruce said it was, sort of.

So some more bag of holding shenanigans ensued, and Bruce Banner snuck the party past several layers of armed guards and onto a bus. Aria couldn’t hold her breath and nearly died, but Manriki was there.

Finally, the party and Bruce arrived at a Motel 6. Bruce paid for a room, and Dogar gave Bruce a gold piece when he saw Bruce paying with a stack of paper. Bruce immediately hurried off to a place called “EZ Pawn,” and seemed in much better spirits.

He explained the nature of his curse, that there was something in his blood that caused him to turn into the monster that they had fought whenever he became angry. Manriki said he would pray for a miracle to lift this curse from him. Banner gratefully agreed, and everyone went to sleep, except Manriki.

The next day came, and Manriki called upon his miracle. Banner collapsed immediately, and began having a seizure. The party came to the conclusion that the curse actually resided in his blood, therefore driving it out of him must be having a physical effect on him…

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Exposition Expedition
None of us are wizards.

After puzzling about the strange tracks (which turned out to belong to a halfling, a heavy human, and an elf) and casting discern location on the yarn (which revealed the yarn’s owner to be in a smallish community on a world primarily populated by elves) and realizing that the tracks had residual evil on them, the party decided to follow the tracks back. It was difficult at first, because the tracks didn’t always touch the ground- they skipped places here and there for long stretches. But the evil led Manriki in a more or less straight line, which the group followed.

The party tried to travel as fast as they could, but Eilonwy was having difficulties with her new childlike state; it made it hard for her to think as an adult. Manriki tried to request a miracle, but his call went unheeded. Halfway throguh the first rest period, Eilonwy woke up wanting to play. A game of tag ensued, with Manriki finally outfoxing the young druid with the clever use of lion’s roar to rouse his sleepy (and grumpy) companions so that they might keep up with her.

So the party traveled for 3 days before coming to a perfect 13-foot circle of Profound Lingering Evil, and no more tracks. Dogar bemoaned the situation, asking Manriki if he knew the master earth spell. Eilonwy did, and she cast it, disappearing to an unknown location.

So, the party turned around and walked back for 3 more days, then another 30 days to an enormous 3-story wall. Dogar flew up for reconnaissance, and discovered that the wall was just part of an enormous octagonal wall surrounding 7 smaller octagonal walls, each made of a different substance. Each wall ahd been breached in a different spot, and the structures inside had been largely ruined. At the center was what could be only described as a mushrooming stream of the golden sand that the party has come to equate with time.

Dogar grabbed Aria and Manriki, and they all flew to the center of this place. On landing, there was the “time fountain,” which had a low wall around it and an inscription that only Aria could read, something about the commemoration of those who fought to save Creation. The only other structures that were still standing or of interest were a library and a meeting hall.

Everyone made a beeline for the library. Dogar made it first, walking up the 9 steps until a manlike construct made of razor-edged cold iron asked him “what do you seek in the Library?” Dogar responded “knowledge.” The construct then asked him “what do you intend to take?” Dogar said “nothing,” and was allowed to pass, going in the door. Manriki and Aria were interrogated by a pair of constructs seemingly composed of hellfire. Manriki said that he sought “the power to save all of creation,” and was promptly attacked. Aria said something else that was the Wrong Answer, though I forgot what it was, and she was attacked too.

The Hellfire Eidolons were pretty dangerous, but Manriki was there, so there was nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, Dogar heard the sounds of combat and went back out. As he laid into the one that was attacking Aria, the Cold Iron Eidolon that had quizzed him reappeared, and moved to engage him, opening a terrible wound that bled copiously. Manriki engaged it, and it told him that he had “won entry by right of conquest,” and desired to be left alone to “deal with the betrayer.” A few healing spells and favored enemy attacks later, and the mouthy machine was defeated.

Dogar tried to walk in, and was mildly electrocuted. The door remained shut. Manriki tried to hold it open for him, but failed his Strength check against the building. Dogar waited a little, but decided to leave when he felt that he was being watched by angry eyes. He went over to the meeting hall, and walked in.

He found himself in a wooded area with a strange black road, greeted by two others who seemed to be expecting him. They told him that he was “at the park at the Center,” and that they needed to find The Door. They were shortly afterward accosted by a group of riders who demanded that they turn around, or more correctly, one of their number who was not good at hiding was. Dogar watched the interplay unfold, and moved on after Haggis the half-orc turned himself undetectable.

The three of them wandered along, until Dogar realized that they were being watched. The masked watcher accosted them as well using a pair of oddly-shaped clubs from a large bag across his back, and tried to fight Dogar, who gave better than he got. Dogar was merciful, however- his assailant didn’t try to actually kill him, he did the same.

The masked man said that he “had friends” who would be looking out for him, and that he and said friends were keeping an eye on part of the park. Dogar denied knowledge of someone called “the Shredder,” and said that he just wanted to go through the door. He left the other man tied up and snuck his way towards the construction site (where the door was supposed to be). En route, he was ambushed by 4 anthropomorphic turtles, but he managed to talk his way out of any violence, and get to the door.

He found himself in a strange hall filled with the likenesses of various people, and wandered for awhile.

Meanwhile, Manriki and Aria explored the massive Library with the help of an invisible agent of some kind who answered many questions, but had limited knowledge. Manriki cast amanuensis to copy a whole lot of stuff and looked around. Manriki asked if there was anything in the library about the Mists, and it led him to a stair deep within the place. Behind two locked doors, he found a single book, one section of which that Manriki had been looking for was heavily edited, in blood. Manriki questioned the attendant about this. The attendant replied that none of the materials in the Library were ever edited, that it was unwilling to enter the room where the book was for fear of destruction, and probably a few other things that I don’t remember.

Manriki and Aria quizzed the attendant at great length, finding that, among a great many other things, many of the Abstracts were destroyed, though one called Hope was known (according to the records in the Library, anyway) to still exist. There were no records of Death’s demise, the attendant had no concept of time, and in fact referred to the “time fountain” a few hundred feet from the Library as “the Phenomenon.” additionally, its knowledge seemed to end with the creation of the Phenomenon; the last record it had was from an Archmage detailing the final preparations before the Phenomenon was created.

They also found out that the Phenomenon’s purpose was to forestall the destruction of Creation.

Manriki checked on Dogar with his greater status and then the two of them went to find him while the spell ran down.

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Back to the Future
Something broke loose, not quite Hell.

Desirra began having a breakdown, feeling that she “should not be there,” and the party tried unsuccessfully to calm the extremely anxious catgirl. Luvanar offered to take her back to the Material Plane and catch up with the party as soon as he could.

And with that, they left. The magic that powered the bubble seemed less under control, and the trip went a lot faster, though it was a lot more dangerous. In addition to the roving Abstracts, the effects of Time itself were much more dangerous. Eilonwy channeled the power of the Dog to prevent the party from all losing 10 or so years of their lives, and youthened to the point that her fragile child’s body could not withstand the ravages of Pestilence, and died. Manriki brought her back to life, and there was some more back-and-forth with the party losing and gaining years until in one big push, the party shot 32 years or so through to the end of Time.

The party found themselves in another manufactured plane, though this one was a lot nicer than the halfling-themed place that they had been to some months back, with an almost subtle undertone to its artificiality. The party came across the tracks of a great mass of assorted creatures, Dogar and Eilonwy were able to make some sense of this massive procession- there were several sets of tracks that the group was able to determine belonged to Legion, Filth, and probably Shortage/Demand, along with some other bipedal tracks in the midst of the marching horde. Eilonwy noted that this place was probably a timeless plane, because of something that she noticed.

The party followed these for awhile and came upon a razed fortress, only light rubble and the lines of the foundations remained. While poking through the rubble, Dogar found two things: A footprint that was on top of the mob’s footprints and yet somehow older than the footprints that it was obliterating, and a piece of purple yarn which turned out to be psionic. Dogar was reminded of a nursery rhyme that his wet nurse had told him when he was a boy, and he told it to the others, who made no sense of it. However, the presence of this conumdrum reminded everyone of some riddles that they had found when all this started, so they stopped and considered them.

Sever RL-hours later, Manriki’s Riddle was deciphered, though it didn’t shed much light on the situation at hand.

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Once More Into the Breach
Getting there isn't fun at all. In fact, it's incredibly dangerous.

“Let’s do the Time Warp again…”
-Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Time Warp”

Manriki evoked a great magic, offering the spirits of those who fell a second chance at life if they would devote their new lives to serving The Invincible. Some of them heeded the call, and asked Manriki for directions. He told them to seek out the temples in Cardinnia. The survivors of the battle gathered in the ship’s bar, where Desirra was sleeping off an epic hangover. Eilonwy cast neutralize poison on her as Manriki cast _ mass heal_ or something. A few spells later, Manriki went to take care of Luvanar.

Aria watched.

Manriki just followed his instincts, moving his hands through strange passes, drawing out this… darkness that seemed to stain the very air from Luvanar’s body and pulling it into himself, to his apparent discomfort. Manriki’s skin turned translucent, and he began acting strangely. Nevertheless, he completed the resurrection, and Luvanar sat up, thankful to be among the living once more. He teleported to Dogar and brought him back to the ship while Manriki went to inquire after Eilonwy.

She was feeling sick, but in a strange way that she couldn’t really describe- it felt like small hearts of corruption were embedded under her skin, and she could feel them pumping counterpoint to her own pulse. The two of them tried various healing spells on her, and cured her somewhat, but not completely. The two of them came to the end of their repertoire of healing magic, and decided to think on it a little more.

Then the party reconvened and Luvanar explained that he had realized that the party was running back and forth trying to put out fires without apprehending the arsonist, so to speak, and the only way to find the heart of the problem was to go to where the problem was coming from- the end or nearly the end of the fading timestream. He had the beginnings of a spell that could take the ship along with its crew safely into the timestream (as repeated uses of wish were likely to lose their efficacy), but it would take some help in the casting. Someone, possibly Dogar asked if they needed to bring the ship, and it was explained that Caden would be leaving them, anyway. Luvanar realized that not having to transport the ship would take a lot of the math out of casting, but he would need a few days to recalculate it.

So the resurrected crew flew along to Valdar, where Caden bid them goodbye. Aria asked a few insensitive questions about this parting, and Caden eventually ignored her and left. Luvanar shut himself in the inn room, Manriki went to a temple of Hieroneous and prayed for guidance, Eilonwy went looking for pie (giving in to her fey nature), and Dogar went out on the town with Desirra as the two of them indulged their mental disorders, pulling a 12+-hour drink and gamble-a-thon that Manriki and Eilonwy wandered into around hour 15 or so.

Finally, the last bit of math was completed and Luvanar transported the party into the timestream. The usual feelings of connection and supra-awareness washed over the group, except for Desirra, for whom this was an entirely new experience. Nevertheless, she fit right into the eave of Luvanar’s magic, and the party began to move their conveyance, a silvery bubble through the time stream-

Until the shimmering curtains of sand parted for the briefest of instants to the right of the bubble, and the group caught a glimpse of an emaciated woman carrying a scythe over her shoulder. The very sight of this entity, who Manriki and Luvanar realized was probably the Abstract of Death, drained the party’s health by degrees, and killed Bleddyn outright. Before anyone could react, Death was obscured by another wave of golden sand, and to the far back left of the bubble, another gap opened up, revealing the Abstract of War. War’s presence caused the group to believe themselves in the midst of a great conflict- with each other. Manriki began casting a spell ot bolster his allies. Aria recorded the goings-on. Dogar charged over to Eilonwy in his “dance of death,” and he cut her down before she could cry out. Desirra pounced on Luvanar, nearly finishing him, but the wizard erected a wall of stone between him and his assailant just in time for Manriki’s spell to go off, revealing the malign influence for what it was.

Manriki brought EIlonwy back to life, and through the judicious use of healing spells, the party managed to avoid Death’s embrace. Death’s presence lingered on for awhile yet, however, and continued to drain the vitality from the group, but Manriki and Eilonwy were able to stave off the ill effects through the judicious application of healing magic.

A shadowy presence hovered by Aria, who spent the first leg of the journey retching, but no one really noticed. Once the magic powering that leg of the journey ran out, a hooded female figure was shunted from the silvery bubble, grasping at the party as she fell away along an errant current of the timestream.

The party had traveled just under a year forward in time, though they had spent no time of their own doing so. A few more healing spells went around and they tried again. The subsequent trips were not as immediately dire, though Eilonwy was attacked by a swarm of vermin shortly after the chattering of a Monkey filled the bubble. She also became violently, terrifyingly ill a few moments later, vomiting bloody sputum and convulsing.

The bout of sickness passed almost as quickly as it came, but the kiloren girl was much the worse for wear. Finally, the party emerged from the timestream 29 months, 2 weeks and 4 days further than when they had began.

And the timestream continued to stretch out before them, shrinking as it went, but with no end in sight, as the mocking laughter of the Abstracts echoed through the dark void of the Plane of Time.

View
Epilogue: The Legend of Dogar
One is the lonliest number. Or the most awesome.
Day 5, Continued:

Dogar paused to catch his breath and sheathe his scimitars, then listened. While fighting for his own life, he had missed the sounds of battle coming from the front of the Puffer Fish Inn. He ran around to the front to find the gang that Orphan had rounded up in a heated battle with an assortment of toughs that Roba had probably brought in to keep his warriors occupied. With a cry of “1,000 gold says I take these guys out in under a minute!” he launched himself into the fray.

He won the bet, but Masks and Orphan were nowhere to be found. The remainder of Dogar’s gang was willing to follow him, but Dogar felt that he would work better alone. So he put the men on patrol and reconnaissance duty while he kept a low profile.

Dogar used his powers of disguise and found a new place to lay up, for he felt the newfound vigor that he’d been infused with fading.

Day 9:

After 3 and a half days of complete bed rest, Dogar was ready to hit the streets. He looked up some of his old contacts that he thought he could trust. He went perhaps 6 blocks before he heard a few voices whispering in what they probably thought were conspiratorial tones:

“Hey, that guy’s got two!”
“Don’t look like a dancer, though.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Let’s get him anyhow!”

And Dogar was beset in broad daylight. He was more than a match for his assailants, and he interviewed the last man standing at the point of his sword.

The word on the street was that King John’s special enforcer had put an unspecified bounty on any person found wielding two weapons or that moved like a dancer when fighting. A few hours of asking around revealed that street crime had increased exponentially while Dogar was convalescing, and that the City Guard was unable to keep up with the sudden dramatic spike of violence.

Dogar discreetly retired to the outskirts of the city and spent the next day and a half at a smallish gambling den, trying to come up with his next move. Unfortunately, he did not get any major insights, and instead left a trail of mildly amazed onlookers telling tales of “Connor Johnson,” who would bet on anything from a simple pissing contest to something as obscure as the number of coins that were minted in a particular year as winnings exchanged hands.

Days 11-14:

With apparently the entire criminal underworld against him and no other viable course of action Dogar decided to hide in the woods. He met a kindred spirit, a young ranger named Kevin Turaan. Kevin and his companions were in Cardinnia at the behest of Duke Grinnash after they had performed a service for him- killing a pit fiend. They were awaiting an audience with the king, but Kevin had grown bored with the city and had decided to explore the wilderness nearby. Dogar explained that he was waiting for his companions to rejoin him, but did not offer much information about the group’s overall mission.

The two of them met up several times over the next few days, and became friends. Dogar revealed that he was trying to find information on King John’s enforcers, and Kevin offered to help if he could. Kevin explained that he was more skilled in the arcane arts than the typical ranger, and that he could use his magic to locate or in some cases contact people. The two of them worked out a plan where Dogar would try to lure Roba out and if he could get an item off of her or even a lock of her hair, then the two rangers would be able to track her down. Kevin took a lock of Dogar’s hair, so that he could keep tabs on him, as well.

Days 14+:

For several days, Dogar made forays into Haven, but was unable to draw out Roba. She seemed disinterested in contacting him mentally, as well. Dogar kept quite busy fighting off would-be bounty hunters, but never made contact with his intended target.

View
Aside: The Legend of Dogar
Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCtToN9Ixpw&feature=related

Corollary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga3AGJCS0MU

Day 1:

Dogar returned to Cardinnia, in the hopes of finding out something about the mysterious assailant who came after him five months from now. He returned to the city of Haven, a port city near Cardinnia’s capital, which also has the dubious honor of being a hotbed of criminal activity.

Dogar sought out an old contact/flame of his, a City Guard named Arianna Blake. She was surprised to find that Dogar was in the city, as apparently the Thieves’ Guild master King John had put a considerable price on his head, as well as his gear. The two of them caught up and hooked up. Then, Dogar went looking for some more information, as the news that there was such a high bounty for him had upset him slightly.

Meanwhile, Masks had also found his way to this place and time, although moments before, he had been helping Orphan look for Marcos in the hills of Lotash. He asked around, and found out that Orphan was also here. He looked her up at the Golden Anchor Yacht Club, but he didn’t have a membership card. After a few tense moments with the bouncer, Orphan decided that the 7-foot masked man had piqued her interests enough for her to actually want to talk to him. She pulled some strings with the bouncer and Masks came in.

About three minutes later, Orphan punched him in the face for asking the Completely Wrong Question:

“Did you find Marcos?”

Another tense moment ensued as the security staff tried to defuse the situation by politely, but firmly asking Masks to leave the establishment. Masks eventually gave in. Orphan followed him, playing pranks on him with charmed and suggestioned passerby. Masks responded by killing some of them in creative ways.

Orphan decided that she needed to find out about this strange man. So she went looking for a friend that she had made (without resorting to charm person), a woman known as Jenny Pickets, and told her to find out about this man, emphasizing that he was weird and that she was really interested in him. Jenny was concerned that this man had done something… untoward, but Orphan assured her that that was not the case. Jenny agreed to have her sources look into it, and Orphan left- to go shake down people for enough money for Jenny to grease the wheels. She came back with about 2.5 times as much money as she needed and gave it to Jenny, and then went off.

A little while later, Dogar came around. He gave the secret knock that he knew from his last time in the city (some 10 years or so ago) and was rewarded with a crossbow bolt. It missed, but made him angry enough to yell about it. Jenny recognized him, but would not talk to him, instead running away (her posted sentry ran off too). Dogar, being much, much faster than even a fleeing ratwoman caught up to her and coerced her into meeting him the next day.

Masks found a place to stay by the docks that went by the charming name of the Puffer Fish Inn. He had pleasant dreams which infected the inn with strangeness and him with darkness.

Day 2:

Masks woke up feeling a little sick. He skipped breakfast, and met a pretty young girl with platinum blond hair. She identified herself as “Roba,” and Masks felt a powerful desire to be near this woman. The two of them walked for awhile; she asked him many questions about who and what he was, but got few answers that made much sense. Finally, Masks explained that he wanted to have relations with her while the two of them came within half a hair of overdosing on Silk. Roba decided to cut her losses and bid him adieu. Masks then tried to do Bad Things to the town’s water supply, but failed. He decided that he needed to do something about these feelings of illness, so he went and asked around about a healer. A few hours of Q&A later, he discovered that there were not as many active clerics in the town as there used to be, but there was a druid in the park who was offering healing services.

Dogar woke up lateish and went to meet with Jenny. While entering the park, he spied Masks. Not wanting to disrupt the Time Stream, he pretended not to notice him. Masks had no such qualms, however, and approached Dogar. They spoke briefly, and realized that they both seemed to know what had happened to them both before. They decided that they should meet at the Puffer Fish and talk later, as they each had Things to Do at the moment.

Dogar went to the meeting place where a cloaked and hooded figure handed him a note, then promptly fled. Dogar ran after them, and Jenny shifted to full-on rat form and tried to bite him. Dogar backed off, angered and dismayed.

Masks got to the druid’s tree and found 20 people waiting in line to see the healer. Masks knew that he would not have to wait in this line, as it was for people with normal problems, and walked to the front of the line…

Much to the dismay of the peasantry, some of whom had been waiting in line since dawn. Masks tried to reason with them, he tried to bribe them (one person walked off with one of his masks; I don’t remember the emotion) and while this was happening, the current patient was healed, and the door opened. The person who had been waiting tried to go in, and Masks killed him somehow, probably involving chains.

The other 18 people fled, Masks felt a little fuzzy-headed after this last bit of exertion, however, the druid refused to see him. Masks left a parting gift, which was returned unceremoniously. He then fled town, seeking refuge in the next village over. He took a room in the only inn where a grandmotherly innkeeper offered to set her son on anyone who “might want to give him trouble” after she heard his version of the situation.

Orphan woke up and went looking for Jenny. However, the strange robed woman had gotten there first, and Jenny saw her first. They spoke briefly; the robed woman gave Orphan a few strange looks, and then went inside. A few minutes later, she left, and Orphan and Jenny talked. Orphan decided that she needed to find out who this person was, and spent the rest of the night tracking her down.

Dogar came to Jenny’s, saw Orphan leaving, and followed her through the rest of the night, well into the next afternoon, where she found Roba heading towards the Golden Anchor, taking the bouncer in with her for a chat. Orphan went into the back; Dogar crept in invisibly and in disguise. Dogar watched the two of them converse, and then started tailing Roba.

Day 3:

Orphan asked Scotty Dougal (the bouncer) who Roba was, and where she lived. Scotty didn’t know. She then asked if Roba was a member of the club. She was, but a “Special Member.” Orphan told Scotty to get her Roba’s membership information, but he refused. Orphan first found someone who could read, and made an agreement with him to meet the next day and have him read some stuff for her. Then, she waited as long as her patience would let her, then broke into the upstairs office, used eyebite on the owner of the club, and took all the Special Member scrolls (they were blue).

Dogar and Roba had a chat. Dogar gave the alias “John Connington,” and told her that he was new in town. She offered to take him to the Leprechaun’s Pot, a place that Dogar knew, but Dogar refused and ran away before she could change his mind. He then went to the Puffer Fish. Masks wasn’t there, but he rented a room and waited.

Day 4:

Orphan took the scrolls to her Guy Who Could Read. None of them had information on Roba. She was a little annoyed, but there was nothing she could do. So, she went to bed, deciding that when she woke, she’d take the scrolls to everyone’s favorite contact- Jenny Pickets.

Masks woke up wracked by spasms, his ears filled with a crusty, scabrous growth, and his mind filled with unpleasant dark thoughts (even for Masks). He could not stand to be alone, and felt compelled to seek out others whose sum of their experience was closer to his own. He shadow walked back to Haven, and began looking for Dogar.

While Masks had been out of town, an all-points bulletin had gone up with orders to attack first and ask questions later- the terrified townsfolk thought Masks to be some sort of undead or outsider in human guise. 4 City Guard rushed him and laid into him. Masks asked them why they were attacking him, and they told him that he was under arrest. He suggested that they arrest him, and then destroyed two of them with his chains. They activated some sort of magic items that they had and sped up, finishing him off with a lucky blow to the ribs.

Masks fell through darkness, into what could only be described as a closetful of himself. Unseen hands roughly fitted him for a new suit, stuffed him into it, and threw him unceremoniously back onto the street-

At Dogar’s feet. Some dialogue ensued about how each time Masks has died, he ends up with Dogar, but then the two changed the topic of discussion to the fact that they both knew Everything That Had Happened to Them Both, but Orphan did not. They didn’t have an explanation for that, but figured that they ought to go looking for her. The only lead that they had about Orphan’s whereabouts was everyone’s favorite contact- Jenny Pickets, whom, as it turned out, Orphan was just on the way to see. They were tailed briefly, but they managed to shake the tail thanks to Masks’ magic.

Roba was there first. Again. Roba ignored Orphan this time and just went in; Jenny reassured Orphan that she would see what Orphan had as soon as she could. The two of them talked for a bit, then Roba left, and Orphan went in.

Jenny was wrung out. Orphan didn’t understand. Jenny tried to explain The Way That Things Were. Orphan didn’t quite understand why Jenny was so afraid of Roba, who could read people’s minds, or the guy that she worked for, “the King of the Softies,” who controlled much of the city and more territory besides.

Grasping at straws, Jenny asked Orphan “what do you live for? What makes you happy?” Orphan wasn’t sure, but she did like candy. Jenny explained that she liked helping people (many of her clients might not have been able to make any money if it were not for her services, and she really liked her son, that she loved him. She admitted that she liked Orphan too, even though she always yelled at her when Orphan failed to use the Secret Knock, but she liked her a lot. She explained that she knew that things must have been hard for her (as evidenced by her scarring) at one time, but she hoped that Orphan found something that she liked, something that made her happy.

Orphan didn’t quite get everything that Jenny told her, but she decided to try this “helping other people thing,” by helping Jenny. If Jenny could help her find out where Roba lived, then she could take care of her for Jenny.

Dogar and Masks showed up, each under a different guise. Dogar tried to get in, even lifting his disguise briefly so that Jenny could see that it was him, and Jenny told Orphan to get rid of him; that he was a guy that she used to know who was bad news. Orphan went out and started talking to them. They revealed themselves, and explained that they needed to talk to her about stuff. Orphan agreed, but only if they would take her to The Golden Whore, an upscale trendy strip club/bar/techno dance party.

The party finally convened and began forming some sort of plan to do stuff. Kind of. Orphan was unimpressed at first, until Masks explained to her that Dogar could Travel Through Time, and that was part of the reason that King John feared him and wanted to kill him. Dogar wanted to capture Roba and talk to her. Orphan came up with the idea of overthrowing John, and then Roba would work for them. Masks (I think) turned it into just taking over the city. Dogar revealed that he was Dogar, and a bouncer overheard. Orphan charmed him, and he told them (after making a huge Knowledge: Local check) that while John wanted Dogar dead or alive, what he really wanted was his bracers. If they could get Dogar’s bracers and bring them to John, they’d be living like kings. Orphan managed to dissuade him of this idea. Somehow between Masks’ urgings and Orphan’s willingness to believe, Dogar became something of a mythic figure at their booth in the Golden Whore. Finally, the plan became that they would overthrow John with their new gang. Orphan laid some ground rules: Jenny had to be set up proper once the coup was done; they weren’t going to hurt kids, and one or two other things that I don’t remember.

Masks, Bui the Bouncer and Dogar retired to the Puffer Fish while Orphan went into the night to collect gang members.

Day 5:

Orphan came back the next day with a sizeable amount of Goons, something like 28. The four ringleaders sat around discussing how to go about taking on King John’s criminal empire when a voice began speaking in Dogar’s head.

It was Roba. She first asked politely that Dogar just give up the bracers. Dogar refused. He then asked her to come work for them; why would someone as powerful as her work for John anyway? She said that she was paid well enough, and she enjoyed the work. Besides, Dogar couldn’t afford her. This back-and-forth went on for a little while, until Roba hung up, and Dogar turned to the others, saying that they were probably about to be attacked.

They were. Roba, a pair of powerful warriors and a smallish mob of grunts teleported in as Dogar finished speaking. Roba channeled her psychic power to tear through the party’s minds, killing Bui the Bouncer instantly and dealing large amounts of damage to Dogar and Masks. The Minions stepped up to Dogar and attacked him.

Dogar’s adrenaline kicked into overdrive (thanks partly to Steve’s initiative count bungling). In a fantastic blur of motion, he cut down the nearest three Minions, then rushed over to the smaller of the two mercenaries and tore him apart before he could react. He then danced around the room, narrowly evading the other mercenary’s massive hammer and Roba’s psionic attacks. Dogar leapt out the window as a finish.

Masks fled the room, and Orphan turned ethereal. The mercenary jumped out the window, landing with a great thud, and slammed Dogar with his hammer. Roba leaned out the window and reached into Dogar’s mind, showing him all the greatest pains that he had gone through in his life, and forcing him to relive them. Twice.

Dogar was completely alone. His mind frantically ran through options, but could not find any that included him walking away from this fight. It was a gamble, and he was about to lose it all.

Perhaps it was the pressure of so clearly facing his own mortality, perhaps it was a lingering effect of the psionic attacks; perhaps it was always there. But Something Shifted in Dogar. He understood that had always been at his best when he stood on his own two feet without anyone at his back but the wind. And now, more than ever, was this true.

Dogar fought with doubly renewed vigor and skill, weaving and ducking through the assailants and cutting straight for Roba’s heart. He might have killed her if she had not prepared a contingent power and teleported away before the killing blow could land.

View
Dim Skies, Dark Nights
You only need enough light to write by when all around is shrouded in darkness.

The party was on its way to Giant Country when Dogar asked to be let off in Cardinnia, and if they could, to come back for him after at least a week. Luvanar had a “Eureka!” moment, said he needed to visit the The Mages’ Consulate to do some research, and that he would return as soon as he could, then teleported away.

The party arrived in giant Country where they inquired after the missing group of Manriki’s friends. They had come through perhaps two months ago, but had not returned. This was not exactly normal, but not unheard of, depending on the nature of the mission involved. One dwarf became very excited upon the realization that Manriki was Manriki, and began telling the party how great he was. Manriki didn’t stop him.

Desirra walked into the Citadel seeking passage back to Irunnia, and was spotted by Caden. The two of them talked a bit, and Desirra spoke about her recent visit to the land of the giants, and what she had seen, as well as what she had learned, against her will. The mention of bedposts aroused some interest from the rest of the group, and they gathered around her to hear her descriptions of the place.

She told them what she had seen, and wondered if perhaps Manriki or someone would be able to cast a hallow spell on a portable hole or something so they could carry it around. The party did her one better, instead hallowing the entire ship, which took a few days. Manriki also tied remove fear to his hallowed areas.

The party then flew off around 10 AM the next day. One of the first things that they noticed was that the sunlight seemed watery and thin, as though the sunlight, but not the rest of the world, were being viewed through some sort of haze, or perhaps that the sun itself were more distant here. Some spyglass investigation confirmed Desirra’s tale- the earth here seemed used up in places.

About 3 days of travel later, they spied some ogres hiding in the woods just outside of the forest giant territory. The party stopped the airship, and Manriki used a spell that made his voice carry for something like 2500 feet so that he could politely remind the ogres that he was Manriki and that they should surrender. The ogres were a little unnerved by the airship and started running off. The party gave chase, with Caden using himself as bait, which the ogres gleefully took, and the fight was joined.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

It was a pretty tough fight- the ogres hit hard and nearly took out Caden, and then Bleddyn ran up and skewered an ogre’s kneecap. Eilonwy might have been in danger, but Desirra stepped out from behind a shadow and killed some ogres real good. The ogres seemed a little concerned about the sudden appearance of the dual-wielding catgirl. Manriki cast a spell of some kind, then a hill giantess, the same one whose band Desirra had fought a few days ago stepped out of hiding and threw an iron gate at the cleric, hitting him a few times. More blows were exchanged, and suddenly reinforcements rushed over from the other side of the ship.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Caden was killed, but not before accidentally turning an invisible Desirra to stone, and the giantess insane. The ogres, feeling that they had the advantage at this point, began mobbing Manriki and Eilonwy when Manriki called upon Hieroneous’ power and restored the fallen ones, then politely asked the ogres to surrender again. They considered for a moment, and did.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

The insane giantess ran off into the woods, Desirra chased after her and subdued her, then politely relieved her of her valuables, leaving her portcullis and returning with an enormous opal necklace.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Then we had a civil discussion with them, where they revealed that they worked for someone named “Gor’rum Tanturo,” also known as “The Dragon,” a bit of a misnomer because the giant brigand is not actually a dragon; he is dragon-blooded. He rules a section of territory in the northern hills where he exacts tribute from the people around and anyone foolish enough to cross through his lands, but does not bleed them dry.

However, since the Mists had started coming, giants had been fleeing the Dragon’s territory, forcing his henchmen to go farther and farther afield to look for plunder, hence the current state of things.

The brigands also mentioned that they had seen the Mists (which came out at night) and the patchwork humanoids, but they avoided them both, because one of the henchogres had tried to eat one of them and gotten very sick from it- they usually find a cave or other secure place to stay at night.

The party let them go, and began investigating the ground, trying to figure out a direction that the corrupted earth was coming from. They figured it out that it seemed to be coming from the north, and radiating out from whatever origin in regular, mostly-straight lines. They continued along this path for about three days, when on midnight of the fourth day, Something Happened:

Manriki was meditating on the deck; Desirra was prowling, as cats often do, and had perched in the crow’s nest (although there were no crows up there). Eilonwy was asleep in the terrarium; Aria and Caden were asleep in their quarters. A small contingent of sailors was on deck, managing ship things. Suddenly, out of a clear, but otherwise dark night, a terrifying sight struck the ship.

What appeared to be a literal river of tortured souls, shrouded partially in a think grayish mist rushed at the ship, filling the air with a constant susurrus of moans, pleading cries, threats, promises and whispers. Several of the crew were struck dumb or rendered helpless by this vision of evil and Desirra was shaken to her core, covering her eyes in order not to have to face this horror.

The specters floated across the deck, leaving terror and fright in their wake. The majority of the crew was overcome by the sight, but a pair of rangers managed to get belowdecks before the battle was joined in earnest. An alarm sounded, alerting the other members of the party.

Manriki conjured a blade barrier and cast a few more spells as the Mists rolled around him, seeking easier prey, which they found and began tearing apart. Eilonwy, Caden and Aria made haste for the upper decks. Desirra’s conscious mind retreated further from the horror and carnage…

Allowing something greater to step forward.

Without looking at the creatures, she launched herself into a devastating flurry of attacks, hissing and spitting like a bag full of feral cats. She destroyed one of the clots of vaporous evil and heard a tiny voice thanking her as she felt the soul of the lookout she had been sharing the crow’s nest with depart.

The pilot was attacked and forced to release the wheel, causing the ship to slow down. Caden tried to protect his crewmen and found himself in danger instead, as seeing these things shook him badly as well.

Eilonwy emerged on deck and cast a sunbeam spell which had some effect, damaging two of the howling clouds of spirits.

Aria stepped out on deck. She recognized the attackers for what they were. This unnerved her a little bit, but she stepped forward and asked the cloud of howling, pleading, cursing, wailing souls to “tell her their piece.” She was rewarded with a chorus of voices that she could neither make heads nor tails of.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Desirra and Manriki fought a pretty desperate battle in the bow of the ship, Desirra was able to destroy several of the creatures, and Manriki’s magic inconvenienced them, even destroyed a few of them outright, and because of their effectiveness, more of them turned away from the rear of the ship to focus on them, drifting through the lower decks as they went, much to the distress of the huddled crewmen below.

This was not to say that things in the rear got much better. Caden was in dire straits, and tried a desperate gambit. He threw himself at the elemental energy conduit and somehow merged his form with that of the ship, using the elemental’s power to bolster his spells as he struck at the Mists.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Aria continued to dance with the Mists, but neither of them was able to touch the other, and it really wasn’t the time for an interview. Instead, the cloud of tortured souls started to choke the life out of Eilonwy, stealing her dreams and filling her mind with darkness.

Meanwhile, at the Mage’s Tower:

Luvanar finished his calculations, checked them once more. “If this is even partly accurate, this would be of invaluable aid to my companions,” he mused out loud. He spoke the words of the teleport spell, and found himself in the cabin he used aboard the Rambler.

An alarm shrieked a warning. He dimension doored to the top deck, and witnessed a truly unnerving sight- Eilonwy was battling a creature so horrible, so foul, that he had to kill.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

One of the smaller clots of Mist channeled dark power at Desirra, seizing the connection her subconscious mind had with her body and giving it a sharp yank. Desirra fell lifeless to the floor. Manriki channeled his own life force into her, then with a mighty surge of positive energy, healed himself and injured the Mists around him. He then had a significant portion of his mental faculties taken from him, and was given some darkness in return.

With a cold, precise hand, Luvanar pointed at the nearest person and fired a polar ray. Eilonwy was struck in the back by the searing blast of cold energy, and then grabbed by the Mists, which continued to feast upon her purity and her thoughts. She channeled her remaining sunlight magic into a blast to push he across the deck towards Luvanar and used heal to bring him back to his senses.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Luvanar then used his “pick up a blade barrier and hit someone with it” trick to cage the Mists that had come up behind him. They were shredded by the whirling blades of force, but still reached through the spell effect and tore him loose from this mortal coil. Eilonwy fell soon after as the Mists grabbed her again, choking the life out of her. In a desperate move, she unleashed the several potent sunlight spells she had prepared, which the Mists greedily drank in with little ill effect.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Caden emerged from the ship and realized that the hallow spells that had been cast earlier were being eroded, presumably by the presence of the Mists on the ship. He cast another few spells in quick succession.

Desirra’s new presence expanded somewhat. She tapped into some hidden reservoir of power, and began to literally glow with added strength. She was able to utterly unmake the last two of the monsters that were threatening her and Manriki, and then she began traveling through the Ethereal plane towards the remaining sounds of battle. She, Manriki and Caden were able to clear the rest of the deck, and Manriki brought Eilonwy back to life, with a little difficulty. Eilonwy felt a little sick and disoriented after being brought back.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Desirra went belowdecks to check on the crew, and wished she had not. The entire middle of the ship looked like a nightmarish charnel house. Apparently the bulk of the crew had run mad, some of them turning on the others, some of them turning on themselves, others still so deep in shock that they would never recover from the sight. There were 18 out of the hundred or so regular crew members who were fit to do anything, and nine of those were still deeply troubled. None of the specialists had been seen during the battle, aside from one of the pilots.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Caden turned the ship around. Manriki apologized, and brought the remaining people together to heal them, and the Rambler flew away from the northern giant lands at top speed.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

View
Aside: Desirra's Discovery
you probably should have tried to kill her.

Desirra traveled to Giant Country, meeting a polite knight named Sir Shield on the way. They made their way to the lands of the Forest Giants with little incident, and she was reunited with her old friend Trammis, who told them what he knew about the rumored spreading blight:

  • Lesser giants; hill giants and ogres, mostly, were coming from the hills to the north to trade with increased frequency because their livestock were sickening and dying, and there was less to eat there. Some of these migrants were actually staying in the south, because they had been driven from their places.
  • Crops, even standing trees were also affected by this strange malaise, and in some extreme cases, standing structures were giving way to this consumptive rot that seemed to be gripping the land.
  • It hand not spread any farther than the hilly lands to the north of the foreest giant territory, but Trammis was afraid what would happen if it spread to the lands of the evil giantkin.

So the three of them decided to see what they could see about this strange chain of occurrences. The lands were indeed suffering; the sunlight had a thin, watery quality to it, the earth had a wasted, used-up look to the trained eye, and the erstwhile paladin’s detect evil revealed an ambient trace of evil in the air, which intensified once the sun went down. A few days out, they discovered a strange, unsettling sight.

A gang of humanoids was depositing shovelfulls of the fouled earth from a rusted, pitted sheet-metal cart into the ground. The strange part was that these humanoids were… altered. In various places, parts of their bodies had been replaced with completely ordinary objects: one had a bedpost for a leg, there was another whose torso had been replaced with a chest of drawers, a third had had its spine replaced with a large spring, and so on. Even more disturbing was that these people were all still alive.

Upon spying the group, the once-people attacked them, but the party was able to dispatch them with relative ease. The dirt was clearly, almost painfully evil, and the party was able to follow the tracks that the cart had made.

A day or two later, the party was waylaid by a gang of ogres led by a hill giant, who had actually been busy trying to rob some other people, a young girl with heavy bandages around her hands, midriff, arms and legs, and a man in very heavy armor (which didn’t sem to help him, as he was flung through the woods to land badly, breaking his leg and barely able to stand) who did not lift his visor. The hill giant picked up the wagon that the two victims were riding on, and threw it at Trammis, then Shield, and it went crashing into the woods.

Desirra filleted a couple ogres, and Trammis punted one 60 feet, then the would-be robbers decided that the PCs were tougher than they looked and fled. The two robbery victims thanked the party, then one of them, a girl, asked Trammis and Shield (who were rather wary of the two of them, one because they were trespassing in Forest giant lands, the other because they had traces of Evil about them) to please help recover the wagon.

They grudgingly did, while the girl talked with Desirra, then magically transported her to someplace where she did not want to be, slapped some spectral bells on her body, and challenged Desirra to some sort of dance-off, where she was forced to hop, skip, jump and dance her way through some sort of vertical obstacle course while a strange monster chased after her and visions of other people unfolded before her that she did not understand nor like. If she failed to step lively enough (and sometimes even when she did), she was punished by a horrid jangling from the ghostly bels that chafed at her very soul at times.

The catgirl was frustrated and annoyed and didn’t really get what was going on, and finally got enough of the beat to dance her way out of the remaining obstacles and back to the place that she had left, much the worse for wear.

12 hours later.

While that was happening, Shield and Trammis found that the wagon had fallen into a sinkhole, at the bottom of which was a lake. The wagon was floating in the lake. They tried to rescue the wagon and were attacked by an angry glob of solidified evil. Its touch was significantly unpleasant, but Shield was able to channel his faith to defeat it after Trammis beat the crap out of it with his axe.

The two of them recovered the wagon, then found that Desirra and the girl had disappeared. They were not happy about this, and started asking the armored man what had happened.

He didn’t know. He was really rather evasive, but it seemed that he had to be. They let it lie, but if they did not get satisfaction soon, they threatened to do unpleasant thigns to him. However, Desirra returned before that happened.

Some more cryptic dialogue ensued where it was made mildly clear that there was Something Happening, and that they were Being Helped After A Fashion, although none of them liked the form that the help was taking. Some dickering for the wagon went on, when finally it was worked out that they would give the wagon back to the girl and she would take away their corruption. It was painful, but they were cleansed. Desirra’s wounds were much worse than previously thought, and the strange girl gave them some advice as to how they might be healed- there were sacred springs and other blessed natural spaces in the world, more importantly, one near the forest giant village.

The strange girl answered and evaded some other questions, telling them that if they wanted more, they should seek the Silent Scholar, the one she had given much information to, just the way that they wanted her to, and he failed in the end. She also advised them that “The clowns are exactly what they appear to be,” that if Trammis took his people’s warriors to the heart of this corruption (which she was hesitant to admit _could _be embraced and used to fight the encroaching darkness with), they would be killed by Knucklebone (a giant boogeyman of sorts whom the girl insisted was real) or turned into more of those things, or perhaps both.

“You will gather your warriors, and I will give you what you want- I will take you there, and Knucklebone will kill you. She will kill you all. they will replace your heart with a furnace and set you to digging, or worse.”

The three of them asked if they would be able to call upon her again, she told them that they would not, for she had other things to do, other people to tell about the situation in the hopes that this world would be able to use the Chance that it had been Given to survive after Something had been Taken from it. She then took them on a ride in her wagon, which grew chicken feet and waddled off into the night.

When the day came, the three of them found that they had been given items of some kind. (they were not evil) Further inspection found the girl in the market place of the giant village, and Trammis took Desirra to see the village elders and start spreading the word about the Shit That Was Going Down.

Desirra spent 24 hours convalescing at the giants’ sacred spring, and then she began making her way back to the lands of Men.

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