Monthly Archives: June 2012

SOW Chapter12: The Hunt for the Githyanki – Well of the Worlds

Githyanki hunting
north the heroes will travel


who is that hot pixie?

Well of the Worlds

The Well of Worlds

Ghena: “You really need to learn the
sending ritual Bingus. I am not always going to
be there to back you up. Still this is going to
be hard, and you know Amyria far better than I,
you should do the sending. I will prepare the
ritual for now. After we are done I will expect
you to copy it, agreed? And promise me you will
study ’True Sending’ master that and you can pay
me back later.” Once the two spell casters was
completed their preparations, Bingus focus turns
inward thinking back to his mind’s own crystal
clear vision of the first time he met


Amyria, the Deva

The magic of the ritual opens a mental link,
between the sender and the receiver, and soon
Bingus is comforted by the familiar touch of the
beautiful deva’s mind. Immediately Bingus
sharpens his focus knowing his link would be
tenuous and short-lived.


“We are safe, but an open portal has
been revealed … A threat to all. Send defenders.
I will hold the portal as long as possible.”

Soon she replies with a sending of
her own: “Secure the fane as best you can.
Get word to Thiradith. Make another Sending to
me with the portal sigils. Wait for our
arrival.”

Casting a new sending Bingus sends
the required sigils to the Coalition. With that
task completed, Bingus withdraws a crystal orb
from his pocket raising it high in the air. A
silvery light bursts outward in a pulse,
rippling through the entire portal chamber.
Calling out Bingus says,

“I have created a zone of protection
barring free use of the portal within this
chamber. No enemies will enter via the portal
while I can stay focused upon this task. The
ward will persist as long I myself can. The rest
of you are free to complete any of the other
tasks at hand.”

Quickly Finellior and Megan set
themselves to organizing a watch made up of both
teams of heroes, as the begin Megan asks,

“You mentioned that you had heard of
the ‘Well of Worlds’, what is it exactly?”

Fin: “I don’t really
know, I have heard whispers of tales. My fathers
didn’t speak freely of such things. He mentioned
a mirror of secrets, and the terrible truths it
had disclosed. I myself remember a childhood
fable about a well at world’s end, but it could
hardly have anything to do with the wonder the
githyanki described. I had believed it to be a
device, not unlike a ‘portable hole’, but I
don’t suppose that is correct either.”

Megan: “Well, it
sounds-like we will need to find out before this
is over. Perhaps we should divide to conquer.
We, Freeriders will guard the entrance, and your
team can explore the portal.”

Fin: “Bingus, would such
a thing be possible now that we control the
portal.”

Bingus, clearly straining to maintain
his concentration responds:
“For now
I must stay focused on the task at hand, but
from what I gathered, this World Gate, is a form
of permanent teleportation circle. Such as the
Lord’s Gates, one can travel from one such gate
to any other provided you know the sigil
sequence to do so. This type a portal is
normally disallowed by the lords of this realm,
but this one was obviously a secret. As I
mentioned, each such gate carries a sequence of
sigils, an address which I have already shared
with the Coalition. This particular gate has a
second purpose, it is absorbing the arcane
energy of this world, feeding some source beyond
this plane. If Talanee is to be believed, than
that source is the Well of the World, but travel
there is clearly warded. I could neither see
where Talanee and her followers went, nor could
I follow … Now if you please I must
concentrate.”

An hour after the last Sending,
Amyria and a dozen other heroes loyal to the
Coalition step through the World Gate. With them
is Bejam, the deva mage from Nefelus, Odos of
the githerzai House of Reprisal, Bhenedict,
Botellick, Alys, Andronsius the alchemist,
Karros, Egrimm Fellbane and his brother Maythas
Fellbane, Jalissa, Mag Blackthorn, and Murrik
Ironfell. Many of the heroes join in the patrols
established by Megan and Finellior. Both Odos
and Bejam begin examining the portal and
anything else left behind by the githyanki with
some of the others scouting the grounds for new
clues and the best lookout locations. Still
others see to necessary provisions, looking to
make the place livable over an extended stay. As
evening approaches Odos advises Bingus to rest,
a takes his place leading the defense of the
World Gate.

Without interruption, Bejam continues
working throughout the night busying himself
with serious work of understand the function the
World Gate. He pores tirelessly over a large
stack of lore Odos had uncovered within the
fane’s libraries. He works without pause into
the next day, as the midpoint of which men sent
from Thiradith arrive to back-up the defenders
of the fane. Later in the afternoon, Bejam
emerges to summon Finellior, Megan, Bingus and
Amyria for a troubled council.


BejamBejam:
“Bingus, will you please gather
those you need and empty library chambers in the
fane, I do not want the things contained there
to become common knowledge yet. In my brief
study I have developed a grasped a rudimentary
understanding of the World Gate and of the Well
of Worlds beyond, but what I has also served to
heighten my concern. For now we must guard that
which we know.”

“The githyanki priest spoke truth
regarding the World Gates. The circle here is
siphoning the energy of our mortal realm,
drawing it to a site beyond, this Well of
Worlds. This destination is spoken of in the
lore here, but the fact that the githyanki have
kept the site secret even from Nefelus
demonstrates its importance. Indeed, the
existence of the Well and its power goes some
way toward explaining the advantage the
githyanki have gained in this war.”

“If the Well of Worlds was merely as
this Talanee described it—a portal for moving
the githyanki’s elite forces—I would wish to
know more of it. However, the brief period of my
study here has shown that the World Gate is
drawing off our energy greatly in excess of its
normal requirement. According to the githyanki’s
lore. From what the Chanhiiri said, Zetch’r’r
had specific purpose in seizing the fane, and I
am as of yet fearful as to what that purpose
might be.”

Fin: “Megan and I had
surmised that a mission to this Well of Worlds
might become necessary. She has graciously
offered to lead the defense of the portal
freeing Bingus and I to lead a team to explore
the well.”

Bingus: “Yes, and I
explained the way is blocked.”

Bejam: “I have discovered
another way. I study has reveal another of the
githyanki’s Secrets.”

“The whitefire marks borne by the
fomorians was crafted by potent ritual magic the
like of which I have never seen before. By this
magic, those who bear the marks sever the
essence of that which marks them a creature of
the mortal plane taking on a likeness of that
which is githyanki within them. If the fomorians
you fought traveled here by way of the Well of
Worlds, their whitefire marks were their
passage. The githyanki no doubt feel secure that
the secret of the sigils is protected from us,
and any who might seek to subvert it. However,
they have not reckoned with the craft of
Nefelus.”

“I have been studying the lingering
power within the fomorians’ sigils, the
whitefire marks can be recreated. Those who bear
the mark should be able to make the journey to
the Well of Worlds; however, I had yet of had
time to fully comprehend the full nature of the
marks, taking them on may be involve yet unknown
danger, but time is of the essence and we cannot
wait

. We do not know how long the
githyanki will await the return of their forces
from the fane, but if they discover us here,
their retribution will be certain and swift. We
have send word to the Coalition for far more
reinforcements to hold the fane in the event of
another githyanki assault. For my part, I will
convince Nefelus to send more aid of its own. If
the worst comes to pass, we can hopefully hold
the fane long enough for a small team of heroes
to discover what the Well of Worlds is—and what
kind of threat it truly represents.”Tattoo'd arm

Megan Swiftblade and the Freeriders
quickly take full charge of the watch, even as
more defenders arrive by way of the World Portal
to the fane. Privately Bejam gathers those who
bravely volunteer to travel through the portal
to the other side one at a time to perform the
ritual necessary for any who would travel to the
Well of Worlds. The ritual by which the
whitefire mark is bonded to a living creature
seems simple enough in preparation, but soon the
exertion shows in deva’s demeanor and
countenance. With each casting he grow ever more
weary, were that he was mortal it is doubtful
whether he could have continued, yet one after
another he performed the ritual: Bingus, Chen,
Mayhem, Vani, and lastly upon Finellior. When he
is finally done the potency of the magic shine
through, the brands flare to life on upon each
recipient’s wrist, an outline of white flame
writhing around the stark lines of a githyanki
blade. Though the mark might be covered by
sleeve or armor easily enough, each of the
heroes could feel its flame still
flaring—pulsing in time with their beating
hearts.

When his task is completed, Bejam
excuses himself even as a pair of Nefelus mages
arrive to take the Thraxus’s place. They
announce,

“We have been studying the shadowy
destination beyond the World Gate. Beyond the
World Gate lies a portal the likes of which we
have not seen before. It has no sigil sequence.
Rather, its location is seemingly fixed by
psychic energy and the flow of planar power
servicing it. A force of githyanki a half-dozen
strong arrived there only an hour ago, but we
have seen no sign suggesting they were aware of
our presence her, nor have we witnessed any
additional traffic before or since. The way is
prepared, the fate of our world may very well
hang in the balance, our destiny is in your
hands.”




Map: Well of the WorldsThe
Sovereign Gate

As the devas activate the World Gate the
world the heroes know vanishes in a brilliant burst
of soft white light. One world fades as another
takes the first’s place. The travelers find
themselves standing within a domed chamber amidst a
haze of white light, the oddness of their
surroundings makes it seem their trip had only half
finished. The walls of the new chamber were near,
but they were still just a faint blur due to the
inescapable brightness of the chamber. The light
drove into their eyes like knives. There was a
current of magical power alive within the room, it
twisted its way through the visitors like millions
of starving maggots. The portal platform extended to
a closed doorway directly ahead, the area beyond the
narrow platform was filled by an shimmering astral
haze like they were dead center within a pool of
gently rippling magical water.

Chen takes lead. Even in the haze of
white light his acute senses realized a separate
distinct ripple on the platform ahead, as a
shapeless creature slowly materializes before him …
It seemed to be a massive wraithlike apparition, an
astral essence, nearly featureless and completely
silent, menace incarnate.


Astral ShadeChen
is quick to shout a warning …the party pauses
couching, while drawing weapons or otherwise
preparing for an attack when a wave of pure
invisible force explodes outward from the stalker
striking the party with the force of a giant’s war
hammer. Surprised, Fin flies back more than 20 feet
due to the power of the blow, but instead of falling
he comes to rest afloat in the open space that
surrounded the platform. Before anything else
happens, Bingus begins shouting what sounds to most
to be arcane gibberish, more intonations than word,
then with a loud clap and spreading his arms a
hungry vortex opens behind the monster, surprised by
the effect the stalker vanishes. Bingus yells to the
others, “Exit quickly, the monster will return
soon!”

The party pausing only to insure
Finellior’s safety before bolting past the doors at
the far end of the platform. They enter into a much
larger chamber. As they exit Fin pauses briefly
attempting to seal the chamber’s double doors, but
he doors rip open throwing the bard backward hard
for a second time, this time his flight is cut short
when he crashes into to the larger rooms curved
wall. The monster had returned, and it loomed large
entirely filling the doorway. Still silent, the
stalker approaches announced only by the sound of
the breaking doors.
Map: Well of the Worlds

The new chamber is huge, featuring the
curving walls and the chamber held a strange
assortment of furniture, the purposes of which were
hard to guess, but it served as some sort of base
camp. There were well-used leather couches spread
across the open expanse of the chamber’s stone
floor. Between the couched stood glowing crystal
pillars in an irregular pattern. From the far side
of the room came the welcome sounds of gently
falling water and a brilliant display of randomly
shifting colors colliding in an indiscernible
pattern through a large viewing portal that appears
to be a wall of glass. Over the sounds of the water,
faint voices rose in surprise, The voice were
recognizable to all as those of the githyanki deep
speech, no one understood what they heard, even Fin
who spoke deep speech was as of yet too far away to
understand what was being said. At the githyanki’s
side of the chamber, the githyanki camp was set-up
surrounding a wide pool. Their party was made up of
a half dozen githyanki who reacted quickly to the
sounds of the breaking doors. They included three
warriors, two psychic masters, and one astraan, a
githyanki who specialized in the mastery of the
planer magic. As a group the githyanki had been
caught ill-prepared for battle, the warrior’s
weapons and armor were piled high on the couches
just beyond their make-shift camp. The githyanki
warriors were rushing to arm themselves, leaving the
other githyanki to spread out and investigate the
sounds at the opposite end of the chamber.

Unaware of the githyanki, Chen is the
first to attack the huge astral stalker. He drives
the monster backward with an astounding flurry of
rapid strikes. Concerned for the others he throws
any caution aside, doubling and tripling his efforts
without allowing the stalker time to react. Chen
strikes true but the blows appear to cause little if
any damage other than forcing the monster backward.
The monk’s attack pushes the stalker almost a
quarter of the way through the large circular
chamber. Bingus boldly joins Chen’s attacks, but
coming to near, the stalker slams the gnome back
across the chamber then launches radiant chain-like
beam of light from it’s body. The light coalesces
upon Bingus and Chen immobilizing both of them in a
prison of light. Then lance-like beams shoot out of
the stalker’s eyes with force great enough to toss
the heroes aside as if they weighted nothing at all.

Vani ran the opposite direction from that
chosen by Chen and Bingus. Mayhem gripping on to the
sorcerer tightly, and together they quickly across
the chamber. Unbeknownst to them there were
githyanki there, and they had been seen by the
githyanki’s astraan. With minimal effort the
githyanki reaches out with his mind grabbing Vani in
a vise of telekinetic power, and then hurls the
halfling into the ceiling 20 feet above the floor.
Freed from the githyanki’s power Vani began to drop
back to the floor of the chamber, but before he
could hit the floor Bingus reacts. In the aftermath
of stalker’s attack, the gnome found himself near
enough to Vani to break his fall with his own
featherfall spell; the spell caused Vani to land
softly without harm. Now aware of the githyanki,
Vani attacks with a barrage of arcane blasts,
sending one volley after another at the three
approaching githyanki on that side of the chamber.

Crouched upon the floor, still
immobilized Chen draws deep from the power of what
he called his inner dragon, his chi explodes in an
expression of spiritual flame from Chen lips
engulfing the astral stalker along with the nearest
of the approaching githyanki. Recovered Fin rises,
to shout his own special encouragement with healing
words for Bingus who had also been immobilized. The
word were welcome as Bingus had found himself to
have been grievously injured by the stalker’s
attack. Once again the stalker was upon Chen.
Thinking quickly, Bingus cast a subtle spell
trapping the stalker within a cocoon of magic, an
arcane construct called a reflecting sphere; a magic
capable of turning the monster’s attacks upon
itself. Bingus cast the spell hoping to allow Chen
enough of a respite to recover.

Both Mayhem and Vani were focused on
making short work of the first three githyanki on
their side of the chamber. At the astraan’s command
a wide zone of astral fire came into being, trapping
the heroes within an circle of strange white flames.
The astral fire was both cold and hot, and exceeding
painful, Vani ran quickly while at the same time
Mayhem to took to air flying from her perch upon the
sorcerer’s shoulder high into the air to escape the
flames. Angered, she casts a charm upon the
githyanki warrior causing him to attack the astraan.
Before the githyanki have any chance to recover
their senses Vani kills both leaving only a psychic
warrior on this side of the chamber. The githyanki
psychic attacks both Vani and Mayhem with a mind
crushing blast that leaves both of their heads
ringing; the attack designed to incapacitated,
cripples both, making it impossible for them to
focusing their thoughts.

Assisted by Bingus’s spell, Chen renews
his attack upon the stalker, and finally the monster
shows signs of weakening, but it too fights back
with redoubled determination, hurling both Bingus
and Chen again half of the way back to Finellior
before Chen can halt the monster’s advance; when
Chen does, Fin conjures a healing spirit which
engages with the stalker such that it would aid any
of the bard’s allies future attacks against the
stalker granting aid and encouragement to their
attack.

Still stymied by the psychic warrior‘s
attack, Vani turns to his innate power, the power he
has available to him without concentration. The
sorcerer‘s body was storehouse of arcane power,
Vani’s more than most, so Vani turns towards the
githyanki releasing this energy in impressive burst
upon the psychic warrior incinerating the last of
the three githyanki that had been blocking his
progress. Their way clear, both he and Mayhem race
around the room flanking the second group of
enemies. Caught between Chen, Bingus and Fin on one
side and Mayhem and Vani on the other the remaining
githyanki are quickly slain leaving only the
weakened astral stalker, but in the wake of
Finellior’s incantation even the stalker is no match
the combined might of the heroes and after a time it
too falls.

As the astral stalker collapses the room
dims perceptively as the monster’s form begins to
quake losing integrity. It withers, and hums in an
eerie fashion as it absorbs the light surrounding
it. Almost entirely unnoticed another figure emerges
from the Sovereign Gate of the Well of Worlds. This
new arrival, a man, wears plain black traveler’s
garb, which includes a hooded cloak, the hood
concealing his eyes, but the newcomer’s eyes still
somehow manage to shine through the shadows of the
hood with a faint luminescence. He approaches
quietly, enigmatically, and unannounced. As he
enters he seems disinterested in the heroes, as he
approaches the fallen stalker.



The Curious Case of Kaius
Dantus, the Necromancer from Beyond


Kaius DantusAs
master of death and undeath, Kaius Dantus was not
interested in animating bones and flesh in the pursuit
of worldly power. The thought of cowing his enemies with
decaying muscles pulled taut over bones that grew ever
more fragile seemed frivolous and unworthy of his
efforts. Dantus was an explorer in the realm of
necromancy—an artist with the animus—and he had greater
designs than marching an army of the slain across the
mortal continents. He looked outside the world for his
goals.“All things die!”

Dantus reasoned.

“Immortal things must die, because the
universe contains infinite dangers, and any creature
that does not age naturally must look forward to a death
more violent than pleasant.”

 

Dantus has had more than a few conversations
with creatures that did not believe their death was
inevitable, shadar-kai, githyanki, devas, angels and
demons alike, immortals all, and he quietly scorned them
for the limits of their imaginations and reason.

Dantus despised the so called gods, and
Klarn’s own immortal lords as just more of the same …
Immortals gifted with long lives, but too short-sighted
to realize their own frailties. In Dantus opinion,
morally, they were no better than anyone else, and if
anything their extended lives and the power they amassed
made them even corrupt than the mortals they lorded
over.

Dantus dreamed of teaching them a lesson. He
decided to make a plaything of the immortals. He dared
to teach them a lesson that any survivors would long
remember. To make this happen he decided to apprentice
himself to the one Lords of Mendelland, the only one who
made sense to Dantus’s way of thinking, Lord Grithstane,
the Lord of Corruption, Death and Decay. The Lord whose
purpose was best revealed in the testing all the others,
but Dantus did not worship the undead lord, rather he
took to his whispered teachings more as a student than a
follower. From Grithstane he learned to kill immortal
creatures and then empower their bodies to live on long
after their deaths. Over the course of Dantus career he
had given unlives to greater and greater of these
creatures whose lives were extended beyond the limits of
the mortal world. As Kaius Dantus improved his skill, he
strove for what he considered the pinnacle of his
self-made art: the slaying and reanimation of a god or a
primordial. In Grithstane, he found a mentor as willing
to make his dreams a reality.

Here now within the Well of the Worlds was
not the first time Kaius Dantus and the heroes of the
Brigade had crossed paths, but here, as was typical, the
Brigade had not noticed Kaius at first. Kaius preferred
to go unnoticed, such was the purpose of his plain black
robes. Actually, the Brigade had encountered Dantus work
very early, within the ruins of Castle Rivenroar. It had
been Kaius who first led the group of gnomes housed
there into the study of necromancy. The gnomes, led by
Asmund ‘Mole-head’ Argitakos and his strong man, Snorre
‘Mole-arms’ Jamussa had adopted necromancy with Dr.
Manne-Crocre’s urging as a way to eek out a living
within the ruins. The wily, quick-thinking Asmund liked
the idea of transforming his small troop of Andaviri
gnomes into the New Dead of Grithstane, a cult
acceptable to the undead host of the ruins; which gave
credence to the saying, “Never trust an Andaviri.”

And the greatest of the Andaviri necromancers
was Bingus’s own brother, Dr. Manne-Crocre who had led
the gnomes along this path after had been secretly
tutored by Kaius Dantus during Kaius’s cursory
engagement with the gnomes.

The next time the Brigade encountered Kaius’s
handiwork was in their conflict with the Cult of
Exquisite Agony, when Chen had nearly died due to an
infestation caused by another of Kaius apprentices,
Obsen the Duke of Decay. Here again, Kaius’s work with
Obsen was no whim. Kaius was there in service to his
larger purpose. Dantus still wasn’t a fanatic worshiper
of any creature or cause, his service to Lord Grithstane
was just a means to his ends. Kaius was entirely focused
on the terrible majesty of his own goals, his service to
Grithstane enabled Dantus the opportunity to practice
his arts upon the rarest of all subjects. An opportunity
brought to swift close by the interference of Chen and
the other heroes.

As Murat’s ghost intoned with his tomb the
Fist of Mourning, "Evil
blossoms in places unexpected, throughout the realms,
this world included. I weary of the battles … my time
is past. Yet world teeters at destruction’s precipice,
new factions rise to work their wickedness. The Cult of
Exquisite Agony, is but a cog, a disturbed cabal
dedicated to infusing those living with the essence of
chaos that drives them … They would be more adaptable,
stronger, faster, and better. To this end the cult
committed horrific acts hidden here in my tomb from the
world that does not comprehend their threat or true
purposes as the world is undone."

In the days that followed, Zardoz an Lama
Amya Seff cared for the tortured man they found within
the tomb until a dark robed figure showed up and
abducted the undying man. And, we may never know whether
Dantus ever achieved his goal of granting the greatest
of immortal creatures unlife for the world never knew of
his accomplishments, but in his own heart Kaius already
felt he had proven himself the greatest master of
necromantic mage of all time. Already, Dantus had master
the art of transforming immortal creatures into undead
servants of such vast power that he felt there was
nothing he could no accomplish. With this goal in mind,
Dantus strode forward into the Well of Worlds to expand
his research even further.



Part: IV – The Bivouac:Dantus

As the astral stalker’s
death spiral continues its shuttering continues as darkness
amasses where the monster had fell. Soon it is
unrecognizable as it breaks down to root substance. Dantus
remains undeterred. Manipulating matters of life and death
thrilled him … It was who he was. He thought of it as
playing chess while others busied themselves with checkers.

With Chen poised in a defensive stance before him
Finellior asks, “Who are you?”Answering quietly he
says, “I am a common man, doing his part. No different
from you. Just another pig drawn from herd. You need fear me
not, I’ve no taste for ham.” “Have you a name? If you need a
label, you may call me Kaius, Kaius Dantus.”

Fin: “Pardon, our concern, but my friends and
I thought we had come to the place alone, why are you here
and by what means?”

“I’m sorry, did you think yourselves the only
ones with an interest in the world? Take heart, you are not.
You can think of me as insurance. Should you fail I will
act. If I am correct in my assumptions, the githyanki are
doomed. By defeating the astral shade, you have already sewn
the seed of their destruction. As for the means of my
coming, that was my own doing, the gate you used is not the
only one that leads here.”

Fin: “What are you doing here now, right
now?”

Dantus: “It is my turn to ask questions, do
you see it?”

Fin: “What are you talking about?”

Dantus: “That which you have sewn. This
creature is changing. Do you see? A new nature is revealing
itself. Look! Do you see it now?”

“In this place we are all free to become what
we really are. We are free of the shackles of gods and
lords, and any who would twist us. This creature cutoff from
its source is closing in upon itself, creating a new essence
as I knew it would. This is the seed I will use against the
githyanki. I am here to cultivate it.”

Fin: “Stop speaking in riddles! We’ve no time
for games now … What is it you are doing here now, who sent
you?”

Dantus: “Are you not free thinking? I am here
of my own accord, as you should be. Here we are all free to
be that which we are. Can you say the same? I do what I do
because I can.”

The humming stops, the astral form, having shrunk
and concentrated into a darkening shape, no longer a
humanoid shape; it had become a sphere of blackness, a
perfect circle floating freely in space a foot or so above
the ground.

Without another word, Kaius reveals a dark green
orb, swimming with swirls of ambient light, the globe masked
between the palms of Kaius’s hands. As Kaius turns his focus
toward the ebony sphere, it jerks once and then hovering it
begins to move slowly towards the dark stranger. Kaius’s
strange glowing eyes pinch briefly and the black sphere
stops then moves await from Dantus quicker than it had
approached. Without looking up Kaius continues,

“I am here, to collect nothing … Nothing in the
absolute, that is the wonder of it. What do you see? …
Blackness, a sphere? But in truth there is nothing,
absolutely nothing there, but that which enters never
returns and here in this non-place I believe I can use it to
bring forth a wonder beyond comprehension. The githyanki
defeat is assured.”

Joining the conversation Bingus asks, “Kaius,
what can you tell us of this place?”
Dantus: “This
is the Well of the Worlds, a universe on to itself. In this
place we are no where yet we touch everywhere. Here now,
this is our own Olympus. How does it feel to be a god?”

And the gnome asks, “What have you collected?”
Dantus: “Absolutely nothing, the common name of which,
strange as it is to refer to any wonder as common would be a
sphere of annihilation.”

Curiosity tweaked Bingus asks, “How would you
defeat the githyanki with that?”
Dantus: “How can I
explain the incompressible? There is folly in such vanity.
Be grateful for your ignorance, there is bless in ignorance.
My curse is that I understand, do you need me to elaborate,
or shall we get on with it?”

Disinterested, Vani had already began a more
thorough examination of their surroundings. The large
chamber was well illuminated by the glowing crystal pillars
that ran floor to ceiling and were spread throughout the
hall. They filled the area with bright light. The ceiling
rose to a height of 20 feet, he ideally calculates, before
realizing he had crossed the hall and again found himself in
the far end of the chamber at the foot of the wide
crystal-clear pool stationed there. Peering into the water,
the halfling briefly catches a glimpse of his reflection
when May Hem who had been quietly riding his shoulder
suddenly takes to air. The tiny fairy dances above the pool
circling the ornate fountain head, one, two and three times
before she announces, “This water is pure and enchanted,
it be imbued with healing properties, and powerful ones at
that.”

For a moment Vani considers tasting the water,
but then unsure of May Hem’s claim, he hurries off to gather
Bingus so the gnome might confirm the fairy’s pronouncement.

Soon Vani returns to the pool with Bingus and the
others, including the newest arrival Kaius who is himself
guiding the black sphere of annihilation seemly having taken
mental control of the object.

After a brief examination of the pool and
grinning ear to ear, Bingus announces, “The pool is safe,
creatures who bathe in the pool will be refreshed.”

Bingus dives in and begins peeling clothes. Chen
looks hard at the gnome and having taken a beating from the
astral stalker, begins stripping to join the gnome in the
pools drawing a gasp from some of his companions as his
heavily scarred and tattooed body is revealed. May Hem
breaks the tension with a quick giggle of appreciation.

Once Chen is in the pool he says, “The water
is lee-fleshing, but nothing more.”

With a loud guffaw, Bingus said … “I was only
kidding, you really have to drink the water.”

Chen lowers his chin in the pool and begins to
drink, and as a warmth spreads throughout his body Bingus
yells again … “No don’t do that, I was just kidding again
its really poison!”

To late, the healing properties of the pool had
kicked in. Chen was feeling renewed by pool, better than he
had in many days. “I feel vely good, I feel leady, no
worries.”

Bingus adds, “I have a very positive attitude
about this.”

Chen: “You feel good, me too.”

Bingus: “Is it getting hot in here, or it just
me.”

Vani: “Maybe we can save some of this.”

As Vani begins to hunt up a flask from his gear,
Fin pulls out another and together they stock up on some of
the pool’s magical waters. Then Fin pauses for a second and
then offering, “O, what the hell?” takes big swig
from his flask, before refilling it.

Kaius suggests, “If you two are done rubbing
up against one another, I am trying to concentrate here. Can
we get on with it?”

 


The Hall of Shards:



Eldritch PairMoving
on white light ahead marks the boundary of a circular
chamber whose floor and ceiling are composed of huge crystal
shards. Pure planar energy surges within the shards, which
focus and hone it like lenses into twin pulsing spheres, one
infinitely light and infinitely dark, one each at the top
and bottom of the chamber. Twin platforms run along the
outer walls of this hall of shards, carved of the same white
stone as the wider bridge running between sealed doors at
the chamber’s center. On the bridge, two giants sit
cross-legged as if in meditation. Both have their backs
turned to you as they concentrate to control and divert the
energy at play through the shards into one or the other of
the large spheres of energy. The giants are violet-skinned
and hairless, unarmed and unarmored, their bare flesh
covered with runic tattoos glowing red and black. Whitefire
marks burns at both giants’ wrists hidden beneath heavy
leather gauntlets. As the party of heroes enters the
circular chamber both giants turn towards them without
speaking at first as if they were trying to understand the
newcomers. Bingus takes flight upon his ebony fly moving to
the far side of the platform. Fin joins him teleporting
across.

Then the closest speaks using the Elven tongue
…“YOUR BRANDS ARE NOT PERFECTED, OBSERVE.”

Having spoke, the giant pauses in his task and
with a glance he bathes Vani, May Hem and Chen within a
field of rippling radiant magic. On the opposite end of the
platform the second giant does the same for Fin and Bingus,
only the magic field created second giant‘s efforts was
necrotic in nature. The brands upon the heroes forearms go
painfully ablaze with fire, flames of either a brilliant
white or a cold black depending on which of the giants had
influenced the brand.

Vani immediately teleports following Fin and
Bingus, but inadvertently enters the second giant’s field of
rippling magic causing the pain of Vani’s brands to
redouble. Arms burning, Vani staggers finding it impossible
to focus.

Hovering above the field of magic, May Hem turns
her fairy wiles loose upon the giants. She snares their
attention, and twisting their perceptions cause the two
giants to begin battling each other.

May Hem interruption provides enough of a break
to Bingus for him to quiet the arcane power feeding into his
brand bringing in back to a sustainable level. And then
inspired he reaches outward, connecting with the magic
following throughout the hall of shards. Bolts of pure magic
lance into the gnome like magical lightning in answer to
Bingus’s call.

Chen and Fin, both tested by the fire of their
brands focusing in their own way while enduring the pain
caused by the whitefire marks. Chen is soon able to assert
enough control over the beating of his own heart to
overcoming the effect, quieting the whitefire marks through
body control alone. Fin accomplishing the same through a
combination of arcane and physical control. Recovered they
launch attacks of their own upon the giants. With the giants
reeling, Bingus turns the power he has been channeling back
outward, continuing to pull it in with one arm and channel
it out with the other at the two giants. The giants stagger
and fall to their knees while trying to reassume control of
the ambient power, but not without leaving themselves open
to Chen and Fin’s attacks. As the giants fall Bingus becomes
aware of Vani’s calls for help. Bingus turns toward his
call, and sees the halfling curled in a ball at the far side
of the platform they had used to enter the chamber still
struggling with his overcharged brands, but Chen was already
there wrapping Bingus’s wrists and speaking softly to Vani,
“You play your cards light, you might
rive to talk about it.”

In a rush Vani raises a flask and gulps down the
water he’d collected in the pool. Feeling nothing but cool
liquid flowing down his throat, Vani looks with dismay
toward Bingus.“ … What, I didn’t say, you could save it,
besides it would probably work if you rested first.”,

the gnome answers smiling … “And,
anyways, at least its not poison.”

Part V. – The Stair Gate

MayHem Interlude

With the giants defeated they party gains purchase of the
bridge dividing the hall of shards. For most of them it is not
an issue, they simply jump, fly or teleport, but Kaius hesitates
as the others move towards one of the sets of double door at one
end of the bridge.

Looking back Fin asks, “Are you coming with us or did
you tire yourself out fighting the giants?”
he asks with
a snarky sneer.

Dantus: “By implication you assert my plate was not
full. Perhaps you would like to demonstrate how easy it is to
control the sphere.”
The sphere moves silently between
Dantus, Fin’s eyes widening at the sphere’s approach, but it
come to a stop several feet short of him.

“We’re waiting.”


says Dantus.

Seeing Fin’s dilemma, May Hems zips toward Kaius, carefully
avoiding the sphere, and trying her hardest to be both courteous
and cute, she douses Kaius in a sprinkle of fairy dust
explaining, “Now you can fly across.”

Without a word of thanks, Dantus takes to air joining the
others on the bridge, once again at the rear of the party. May
Hem flies away, staring at the ungrateful visitor feeling a bit
crestfallen.

The doorway from the bridge opens into a round chamber of
pale gray stone. The air within flares with swirling currents of
white light—four circular mirrors are set along the walls, their
surfaces rippling like quicksilver. In the center of the
chamber, the stone floor disappears to be replaced by an uneven
grid of black bars seemingly made pure force. A stone plinth
stands at the center of the barred floor, its sides set with
glowing keyholes. Beneath the bars, steep ivory stairs descended
down, beyond sight, into a haze of white light.
The Men in the Mirrors

May Hem eager for a distraction is the first to enter. The
ambient astral energy there seemed harmless, but she also sensed
a stronger pulse of arcane power that seemed to be surging from
each of the four mirrors set within the chamber. The mirrors
were organized two to a wall. Flittering out in front of the
party, May Hem approaches the nearest mirror. As she nears it
she sees something lurking deep within the silver surface of the
mirror but it disappears before she has a chance to identify it.
As she turns to tell the others she realizes she’s too late. The
other had been quick to follow her, and when she turns a monster
had already appeared in their midst besides Bingus.

Before anyone can react, the monster grabbed Bingus and tried
to teleport away only to be greeted by the stifled pop of magic
gone afoul and Bingus’s grin.

“Hah, it tried to take me! You should know better, I am
BINGUS the GREAT, I go where I want but only when I want! …
Gather close to me, I can protect you all.”

The gnome is right, but unconvinced the hulking creature
tries to teleport once more failing a second time. Foiled, it
attacks. The mirror phantom is fearsome in it’s demeanor, large,
hideous, which long sharp claws, horrid breath, and massive
curved fangs. Chen reacts with lightning speed driving the
monster back and pinning it at distance with his great spear.

A second creature appears, but staggers, as if it had hit a
wall. The monster’s travel interrupted by the forbearance
created by Bingus mastery of dimensional travel. Stymied, the
monster moves in to attack.

At the back of the party standing alone, Kaius seem the most
vulnerable of the party as a third monster appears next to him,
but Dantus quickly ducks as the sphere spins about him through
the air and intercepts the monster in mid-lunge. The creature
disappears as it collides with the sphere, howling as if in pain
as it vanishes.

As a fourth planestalker appears May Hem confuses both it and
one of the others and the two creatures begin fighting. The
first monster disappears at the end of Chen’s spear and the monk
drives its point home. Vani turns his attention to the pair of
fighting planestalkers determined to leave nothing to chance, he
targets both monsters and blast them into oblivion with
overwhelming blasts and suddenly all of the mirror’s phantoms
were gone, sent back to wherever they came from.

As a calm settles over the room, Finellior turns his
attention to the far set of double doors, opening them
cautiously he is immediately perplexed as he realizes they are
opening impossibly to the far side of the bridge within the
giant’s chamber they had just left. “Bingus come take a
look at this.”

Looking out the doors with Fin, Bingus realizes what is going
on with a sense of awe, understanding and amusement, “We
know this Well of Worlds appears to exists in its own planar
node, and apparently the githyanki have learned a way to fold
space in about itself.”

Not really understanding, Finellior suggests, “Great,
well let’s see if we can we do anything with these locks.”

pointing back towards the black onyx plinth at the center of
the stair gate, obviously referring to the four keyholes, one at
each side of the plinth. After a brief examination, he
announces, “There’s something wrong with these locks, they
aren’t like anything I’ve ever seen.”

Bingus asks, “Can you lift me up or maybe let me stand
on your back so I can get a better look?”

Fin agrees reluctantly, and lifts Bingus up for a better
look, and after a series of ‘Ohs, Hmms and Interestings’ Bingus
proclaims, “Not trying to be obvious here, but these are
magical locks.

“No kidding?”


is all Fin can muster.

Maybe we will need all four keys, or at least four
thieves skilled enough to pick them … or MAYBE we need Magic
Thieves.”
suggests Bingus

MayHem MadElsewhere
within the chamber May Hem frowns trying to get someone‘s
attention: “Guys … HEY GUYS! … BINGUS … I AM NOT VERY BIG
I CAN FIT THROUGH THE BARS!”

With no one paying an attention and with her patience at an
end, May Hem flies high to the ceiling of the chamber, growing
ever more violet as she rises (like many fairies, May Hem always
glowed more purple when she got angry) then with an explosion of
purple pixie dust, and yelling as loud and shrill and she can,
May Hem dives straight through the ebony bars.

“MAY!”


yells out Bingus, but he’s too late. “Put me down!”
he says panicking.

As Finellior complies, Bingus tries running buts quickly
stumbles falling to his hands and knees as he trips over the
uneven bars of force; not bothering to stand, the gnome crawls
to a section of the bars set above the beginning of the
stairway. Once there he tries to squeeze himself through, but
instead he finds himself forcibly and painfully rejected by a
surge of arcane energy within the grid. Undeterred he places his
face between the bars and yells, “May, you get back here
this instant!”
but he hears no response.

Without warning, Kaius directs the sphere of annihilation
into the magic bars. The bars crackles and disappear as the
barrier begins to fail, the sphere easily cutting its way
through the bars. Vani looks on with appreciation, but with
obvious concern Fin yells, “Wait! Hold on a second.”

Kaius relents raising the black sphere above the grid once
again, the magic of the barrier immediately begins to
reconstitute.

“Fin, let him be!”


calls out Bingus, “Unless you have a better
suggestion?”

Kaius grins back at Vani and says, “Placing a shade
within a cage, puts its substance in a rage … each minute moving
forward brings us closer to surprise.”
And then asks,
“Shall, I continue? Are you quite through?”

“Are you sure about this?”


Fin asks directing his question towards Kaius.


Kaius says, “Oh, I am in good humor … fat and
sleek, more then ready for a new beginning.”

Fin replies, “Do it!”

Well of Worlds – Part VI … The Descent

Kaius wastes no time ripping into the grid of force with the sphere of
annihilation, the magical bars melt away at the sphere‘s touch which
obviously was causing a disruption in the magic’s matrix. Across the grid
the bars flash and fade, the grid offering little real resistance to the
black sphere. As Bingus watches the raw display power concern begins to well
within his mind. The gnome’s distraction passes the force grid collapses and
the bars disappear.

Satisfied, Kaius sweeps one arm towards the revealed stairs inviting his
new allies to proceed. Bingus notes a wry grin on the stranger’s face, but
remembering May Hem he rushes through the open floor still mounted on his
magical figurine, the ebony fly. The others follow as quick as the can
behind Bingus. Finally when all the others have past, Dantus begins his own
slow descent down the winding stairs.

The spiral staircase was formed of cut ivory steps descending beyond
sight into the well of the chamber. The stairs were hung free, with no
supporting walls or rails. The walls of the chamber roughly matched the size
of the room above that the heroes had just left and they were made of the
same gray stone but a spiral pattern of light and darkness played out upon
them caused by the unseen magic churning in the depths below. The magic was
causing wild swirls of ambient magic that grew brighter deeper as the stairs
descended. The magic was blinding in those depths making it impossible to
know how far the stairs descended, but clearly it was hundreds of feet. The
stairs are slick, and steep making the climb difficult and slow, only a race
such as the githyanki that could fly would create such a hazardous set of
stairs. With the light and the astral mists obscuring the base of the spiral
stair the party begins their long descent.

Well ahead of the others Bingus raced through the center of the chamber,
ignoring the stairs. He was tracking May Hem scanning for glimpses of her
sparkling fairy dust, knowing very well that she might be invisible. As soon
he caught sound of her chirping giggles, Bingus presses his fly onward,
increasing its speed, and then suddenly hears May Hem laughing uproariously
behind him.

“Ha! I got you mister fancy pants. I got you, I go-t you
…he, he, he”

You’re so fond of idle tricks,
Of silly spells and riding ticks,
Now I’ll have real fun,
Telling tales of Bingus’s butt,
Your cheeks so wide, they got you stuck,
And not your face, oh no, your bum!

Bingus stops and reverses his course, but not before May Hem disappears
again then he hears her rhyming again, letting him know she was descending
again towards the base of the chamber.

Furry-faced, and top hat bound,
Bingus is just a dopey clown,
Thoughtless, rude and real dull,
A friend’s nose he’ll slyly pass,
And pump his cheeks to blow some gas,
I WOULD RATHER KISS A TROLL!

Once again Bingus begins to chase her but he starts to lose her voice
amidst the whooshing sound of the magic that had begun to increase as they
got deeper within the chamber. This sound grew ever louder as he descended,
and before much time passed Bingus lost May Hem entirely as the lower
chamber was revealed and he saw white light seething in a corrosive
whirlpool that filled the vast chamber below. The air was hazy above a stone
platform extending from the base of the spiral stairs across the seething
vortex. Pillars of glowing stone rose above the maelstrom, their surfaces
crawling with an ever-shifting flow of arcane runes. The far side of the
chamber was taken up with what appeared to be an oversized arcanist’s study.
There were tall shelves and wide tables that were covered with well-worn
tomes and tattered scrolls.

A violet-skinned eldritch giant of immense stature glanced up in surprise
as he became aware of the gnome’s approach. Bingus saw a whitefire mark was
burning on the giant’s wrist as he held up his hand as if in warning, an
glowing band of eldritch energy trailing from his wrist into a circle of
similar light which seemed to confining the giant.

“I am Haryssus. It has been long years since any but the masters of this
place breached the stair gate, but those who did so lived no longer than
will you. I have no quarrel with you. Flee while you can.”

As the giant speaks, Bingus notices that not just the one, but both of
the giant’s hands and feet, had faint blurs of eldritch energy connecting
them to a rune laden circle. The all-but-invisible restraints bound the
giant to this workplace. Realizing this, despite the giant’s dismissive
demeanor, Bingus imagined an undertone of weariness, not of anger in the
giant‘s words, and so took them not as a threat, but a vague warning of
danger, but just then Bingus remembers that his friend were not far behind
him and given the impressive competing sound of the maelstrom he doubted any
of them had heard the giant‘s warning.

Map: Vortex

Behind Bingus, Chen, Vani, and Finellior hurried down the stairs as
quickly as they could safely follow, and in that order. From their
perspective the giant’s words had reverberated loudly sounding like threats.
Vani wastes no time on words and he immediately launches a salvo against the
giant, but the sorcerer‘s magic fizzles upon contact having no effect upon
the giant. Reacting the giant extends his arm, his palm facing toward Vani
and a ray of eldritch fury explodes blasting Vani head over heels off the
stairs towards the waiting vortex below. At the last second Vani saves
himself teleporting to the relative safety of the chamber floor.

Chen leaps past the last few stairs placing himself between Vani and the
giant. Fin pauses at the base of the stairway taking measure of the
situation, playing more attention to Bingus than the others. Frantically,
the gnome trying to get everyone’s attention, Bingus shouts, “THE GIANT
IS A PRISONER, HIS NAME IS HARRY SOMETHING, HE IS BOUND. DON’T ATTACK!”

Unnoticed a sudden flare of yellow-white light heralds the appearance of
a ghostly githyanki. It stands silent, brooding, at attention, 15 feet above
the chamber floor upon the tallest of the pillars rising out of the astral
vortex of the well. The specter was more powerful than the shades they
fought in the fane, this creature wielded twin bastard swords, its eyes
burned with cold white flame. In life the spirit had been one of the
greatest knights in the service of queen, Vlaakith CLVII. He was a Soul
Stalker, who had longed and expected to become a Death Knight in her service
when he fell, but she had fallen before the knight, and when he fell his
reward was denied, and now his restless spirit was instead enslaved here
within the well where the spirit’s only pleasure was in the pain it brought
others. No one but githyanki where welcome within the well with only
exception, Haryssus the elder eldritch giant ritualist master labored within
the well sharing the space with the ghost who endlessly tormented and
tortured the giant while Haryssus endured endless toils there.

Within the Vortex

Doom falls upon Chen before they recognize the danger. The spirit glides
from it’s post to the center of the floor creating a great psychic pull as
it lands drawing in Vani, Chen and Finellior. Of those near, only Bingus
escapes rising beyond the ghost’s pull fly high even as the ghost was
landing. As the heroes pull tight around the undead knight the ghost sweeps
outward with both of it’s blades waking the heroes from their stupor with
the horrendous pain of his attack, pain that cripples the three heroes,
slowing their reflexes and causing doubt and fear to take root like an icy
claw gripping their hearts.

Again Vani vanishes only to reappear upon the stairs. Chen pushes Fin
back and positions himself to defend the bard, while exposing himself to the
specter. Standing there, the ghost’s spreads a debilitating aura over Chen,
an aura of death that makes the ghost’s very presents deadly. Chen feel his
own chi wilting, and he tries to drive the spirit back with the point of his
great spear of Myrdroon, but the spear sinks deep into the ghost’s breast
finding no purchase upon the spirit‘s ghostly form until with a silent
command Chen transforms the spear into a shaft of lightning unleashing the
spear’s full power upon the ghost. The ghost hurls backwards into stairs
which divided the main floor from the side work chamber. Still stricken from
the ghost’s attack Chen slowly stumbles forward cutting the distance and
taking advantage of his spear length to attack the spirit again. The monster
recovers quickly catching Chen with a fiery glare that tears though Chen
psychic defenses ripping into his mind, filling Chen’s thoughts with visions
of dread. Vani interrupts the specter’s attack blasting the githyanki from
the sorcerer’s new vantage point upon the spiral staircase. The ghost
ignores the sorcerer’s powerful attacks as if they were beneath it’s notice.
Rising to continue his attack upon Chen. Fin calls out encouragement to the
monk and Chen attacks again.

Above the fray, Bingus calls to Fin, “Where is Dantus?”

“He is coming, last we saw him.”


answers Fin.

“I should go check on him.”


suggests Bingus.

“We need you here.”


insists Fin.

Above Bingus’s should May Hem appears, “You can go, I will keep
them safe.”

Taking the fairy up on her offer, Bingus rises quickly with the loud,
high-pitched whine of the ebony fly’s beating wings.

“Damn that fool gnome!”


exclaims Fin as he realizes the ghost is once again having his way with
monk. Chen fights back unrelenting tenacity, even while retreating in front
of the powerful ghost. Then Fin notices May Hem dancing through the air
diving in and about the battle taunting the spirit, providing quick openings
for Chen to strike. Fin joins in cheering Chen’s every strike, his words
striking a perfect cord with the action. The bard’s words were magical,
serving to support Chen’s efforts along with all his allies, granting them
all extra strength and endurance in the battle.

Rising fast, Bingus climbs 10, 20, 40, 80, 160 feet until he finds Kaius
Dantus at the midpoint of the spiral stair slowly working his way down; the
sphere of annihilation floating in front of him, leading Kaius’s way.

Initially Kaius pays the gnome no mind, rather Bingus finds the
necromancer humming and whistling in a peculiar fashion, “Bang bang,
Flash, bang, big bang, Bing bong, ding dong, Dum dum, d-dum dum”

Kaius TriumphantBingus
wheels around avoiding the sphere still landing directly in front of the
sphere. He asks, “Where did you say you were taking that?”
Indicating the sphere as he asks. Kaius stops humming, and for a moment
stares back at the gnome with his strange shining eyes then answers, If
you are so curious, you have but to drop your own Sphere of Annihilation
within The Well of Many Worlds. I expect you’d gain a keen understanding of
what‘s possible. Who knows what wonders you might wake? … Below us waits the
greatest mystery of all, a gateway to the truly infinite, an endless
churning maelstrom of power. What gateway could we open by with such a
wonder?”

While Kaius rambles Bingus switches his focus to the sphere and he begin
to test whether or not he might be able to take control of the dark globe.
As reaches out he feels the sphere‘s a black insatiable presence …
infinitely barren … cold, inhuman … then like steel against flesh he is
cutoff without warning by the iron control of Kaius Dantus‘s will. Worry
engulfs Bingus and as his focus broken, he is once again attentive of
Kaius’s words.

“Ha, and where in all of this is Edwin I wonder? Useless sod, such a
waste. He thought the Well was a piece of clothe, like a cape can you
imagine? Fool! Now if you would please get out of my way!”

For a moment Bingus stands in the way defiantly weighing his options. He
quickly calculates that they were still roughly 150 feet above the floor of
chamber and it would only take Dantus about thirty second to reach the base
of the stairway from there. Something in the back of the gnome’s mind told
him in chilling fashion that it would be a bad idea to let the necromancer
get there. Call it inspiration, portent, or whatever … In the back of
Bingus’s mind his thought was ‘Perhaps it’s better for one to die alone
than to live on in an eternal purgatory.’

His decision made, Bingus attacks, but with the subtlety and skill of a
master wizard, he starts by casting a simple sleep spell. The spell is
completed before Kaius can counter, and even though the necromancer resists,
the spell still slows Kaius to a crawl as the spell causes weariness to
settle over the necromancer. Reacting, Kaius pushes the sphere towards
Bingus hoping to obliterate the annoying gnome. Kaius had realized that
Bingus had tried unsuccessfully to assert control over the sphere, and he
knew that the gnome might have succeeded had it not been for the ‘talisman
of the sphere’ that Kaius had created in preparation for this endeavor.
Kaius lifts the talisman, his spiraled green orb, within one of his palms,
and the orb in turned redoubled Kaius’s control over the sphere; using it
now, he pushed the sphere forward. As the deadly sphere overtakes Bingus,
the wizard forces his ebony fly to vanish with a mental command which causes
Bingus to fall to floor of the stairs and allows the sphere to pass over
him, but even as the sphere floats menacingly above him, he feels it’s cold
pull. Bingus is afraid for a moment that the sphere might lift him off the
ground, it‘s presence was crushing and otherworldly, so much so it was
causing the gnome to breaks out in a cold sweat. Bingus realized Death was
quite literally hanging over his head, and inside he knew he was
overmatched; still he remained unwilling compromise or to yield to fear.

Desperate, Bingus turns to his mastery of the planes. Bingus had always
been an explorer at heart. It was in his blood, and no one place held his
interest for long. In that at least, both he and Kaius were brothers. Over
the years Bingus had mastered an extensive knowledge of the planes, and he
had learned to use his knowledge to grasp control of the ever-present
threads arcane power and bend them to his will powering his many talents,
such as to find or generate portals simply for travel, and for other more
extravagant purposes. In his understanding of such magic, Bingus’s power was
unrivaled, and here within the well, like nowhere else, the flow of such
magic was overwhelming. Tapping into that power, Bingus takes hold of the
threads, causing a vortex to open just behind Dantus. Kaius finds the
portal’s pull is irresistible, he disappears into a timeless demiplane of
Bingus’s own creation, his plane of endless stairs.

Down below, on the floor of the chamber, May Hem and Finellior continue
helping Chen as the monk bravely takes point in the fight with the ghost.
Fin had joined the monk in the battle but even with the bard’s help they
where clearly and easily overmatched. The guardian shade was no ordinary
haunt, he had been a great warrior in life, and he was more powerful and
fearsome in death. The ghost knew no pain, no weariness, and it gave no
quarter. It existed to kill anything and anyone not githyanki, anything that
tried to invade the Well of the Worlds. Even in life the warrior had learned
to strike not only physical blows to his opponents, but also to attack to
the silver cords of life attached to all mortal creatures. These cords were
normally invisible to such creatures and hence they were especially
vulnerable to the githyanki‘s silver blades. Flanked by Chen and Fin, the
ghost calls on this ability delivering a ‘soul strike’ to the monk, his
glowing silver blade rips though the monk’s body and soul, leaving Chen
staggered and dying while in the same motion the warrior sweeps his second
blade in a great arc around his body unleashing a wave of force that hurls
both Fin and Chen away as if they were weightless. The heroes fly backwards
landing prone upon the ground, but they are thrown which such force that
they continue to tumble sliding headlong into the spinning vortex.

Seeing his friends desperate situation Vani acts using the full extend of
his power and knowledge to bend his own reality. Elemental powers swell
within him, he uses the elements of fire, force, lightning, and his own
psychic will to conjures three duplicates of himself from the nether; he
implants each with a quarter of his own reality, each form embodying one of
the four principals of chaos, one in each pole: fire, force, lightning and
the last, a being of psychic energy. Divided such he attacks, dispersing
himself and the Vanis spreading throughout the chamber.

Arcane power explodes upon the ghost from every direction as the Vanis
attack. Just like before the ghost ignores Vani’s attacks frustrating the
various Vanis. They begin mocking each other.

“You call that a spell?” … “What was that?” … “Minerva could do better!”

With Kaius gone, Bingus wastes no time, he immediately assumes control
over the sphere of annihilation and begin moving it back up the stairs as
quickly as he can. Still desperate for reasons he didn’t fully comprehend,
he was frantic to insure the sphere never reached the floor of the chamber.
Giving credence to Bingus’s fear, Kaius reappears, it became obvious to
Bingus that the necromancer’s mastery of planes was nearly a match for his
own.

Kaius was now positioned lower on the stairway than Bingus, Kaius glares
at Bingus while reaching within the folds of his cloak. He withdraws three
glassy spheres casting each upon the ground between them. The spheres
shatter and three angelic creatures emerge, three angels of valorous death.

Angels of Valorous Death

The angels surround the gnome and begin striking Bingus in turn, each
blow burning with the cold fire of their necrotic power, each strike
bringing Bingus one step closer to the true death. As the angels strike,
Bingus sees a blur of violet colored sparks darting past the deadly angels,
weaving in and about them before zipping past the angels and behind Bingus.
It is May Hem, in her wake the lesser angels had begun battling each other,
falling prey to one of May Hem’s enchantments. When all but one of the
angels were gone, the angels having been dispatched by one another, the
final survivor is vanquished by Bingus himself, the wizard casting a
tombbound ooze spell upon the survivor engulfing the angel in a living
acidic, jelly-mass. It tries to escape, but the survivor in soon consumed by
Bingus’s spell.

While Bingus and May Hem struggled with the angels, Kaius reassumed his
control over the sphere of annihilation and he calls out psychically
summoning an even more powerful servant, before turning and renewing his
race down the stairs, once again with the sphere of annihilation in tow. He
mumbles as he descends, “Oh brave new world, out of this thing of
darkness, let us see to what thou can give birth!”

Angel of Eternal ProtectionBefore
Kaius can travel far, Bingus halts the necromancer with a grasp of the grave
spell. A giant-sized skeletal hand bursts from ivory staircase, the ghostly
clawed hand wrapping tight around Kaius and snatching at him up, halting his
progress. Kaius looks back towards Bingus and with his one free hand he
grasps, in a motion which seems to mimic that of the hand created by
Bingus’s spell, but as Kaius’s hand squeezes in the open air the gesture is
recreated within Bingus’s chest. Without warning Bingus’s heart stops
beating, he slows, and his consciousness beginning to fade. The magic of
Bingus’s own spell fails, and making matters worse Kaius’s servant arrives;
another undead angel appears, this a one larger, more powerful version of
the others … an angel of eternal protection, independent and free-thinking.
The angel attacks.  

The angel draws a great sword as it rises through the air towards Bingus,
playing no heed to May Hem. Bingus tries to attack Kaius again only to find
that within the angel’s presence no harm could befall Kaius. Bingus couldn’t
help but to be a bit awed, by the angel, he found himself cowering, backing
away as best he able. The angel was taking its time, confident in the
inevitability of the gnome’s demise.

Witnessing the angel’s approach, Kaius was satisfied and he turns to
continues his trek down the stairs. Nothing more stood between him and his
goal. Grinning he begins chanting to himself, a story that May Hem
overhears.


MayHem's Kiss“And
so it past that a man of such wickedness, that even the most decadent of
peoples spat him out. For he had spoke ominously of their impending doom,
but did they listen? And as they died did they clamor for his grim words?
Behold, the great Worm stirs! Go out and spread the word, for he has come.
He makes the worthy the unworthy, he shall redeem the wicked, and purge the
unclean.”

Forgotten by everyone, May Hem hovered for a time unseen and unheard in
the open air in the center of spiral staircase above Kaius, then she stops
and purses her lips blowing a magic laden kiss to the necromancer that stops
him in his tracks.

Kaius pauses, suddenly enthralled by the presence of the beautiful fairy.
He turns and sees her for the first time with new eyes. Completely
entranced, the necromancer forgets even where he is standing. Without a
thought he approaches her attempting to reach the fairy. The stairs falling
away beneath him, and he begins the long but swift fall into the hungry
maelstrom below. He dies having fallen 150 feet, only to disappear within
the vortex. He is never seen again.

In the wake of Kaius’s fall his servant, his guardian angel disappears,
leaving Bingus injured but alive as May Hem races to his side chiding him:

“You should pay more attention to me, you didn’t tell me
if you liked my new dress?”

As Kaius tumbles past Vani, Finellior, and Chen he isn’t even seen by the
trio. Fin and Chen were struggling to escape the vortex where the ghost had
thrown them. The power of the vortex is withering in its radiance, knowing
well he would not survive long, Chen manages to reach the platform and pulls
himself out of the maelstrom, but the spirit glides effortlessly through the
air, landing upon Chen driving both of it’s ghostly blades into the fallen
monk’s back. Chen collapses, bleeding to death, then without pausing the
spirit turns its attention one to the Vanis blasting it to oblivion with a
psychic attack.

In the moments that follow, the ghost makes short work of two of Vani’s
other avatars trapping the only remaining Vani atop one of the glowing
pillars where it stood. Now fixed on Vani, the ghost flies to him joining
Vani on the pillar, suspended above the maelstrom. Vani fights bravely, but
with his magic exhausted he can’t escape short of allowing himself to fall
to the near certain death within the vortex. He could no longer cast spells,
having already exhausted his stores of magical power. He resorts to fighting
the ghost relying only on his questionable skill with a dagger. He attempt
might be laughable under a less deadly circumstance, but here and now there
would be consequences.

Back on the platform, May Hem reappears like a tiny angel hovering over
Chen. She quickly utters words laden with preternatural inspiration,
restoring Chen’s stamina and making his wounds less insignificant. Chen
opens his eyes. Fixes his determination and in a moment of clarity retorts,
“Son of a bitch, must pay!”

Witnessing the halfling’s valor, Haryssus finds himself struggling with
the situation. He knew he would suffer endless torment, and relentless
torture if he were to aid the heroes. The ghost’s ire held no bounds, but he
wanted to help, his decision made, Haryssus hammers the ghost with a wave of
force powerful enough to dislodge the spirit from the pillar and hurl it
across the chamber. As the ghost begin to recover Haryssus sees Bingus
descending upon the stair with the sphere of annihilation in tow. Knowing
full well the danger, Haryssus yells “HALT! Come not a
step closer.”

Knowing Kaius was dead, and that the sphere was fully under his control
Bingus ignores the giant and continues his downward climb. Without further
hesitation, the giant blasts him from the stairs just as he had dispatched
the ghost from the pillar.

Having rescued himself using teleportation, Fin moves to attack the giant
when they hears Bingus call out. “Do not attack him! He is a prisoner,
he acted only in defense of the Well.”

Fin pauses his advance and warily begins questioning the giant, “Is
this true giant?”

Answering Haryssus replies, “The sphere is a threat
to us all, it must not approach.”

As the giant answers Fin sees that he is indeed bound, and he asks,
“Do you serve here of your own free will, or have you been force to serve
here?”

“I am a prisoner, forced into service.”

Fin offers, “We will free you if we can, I ask only that you
refrain from further attacks upon my friends. Though I welcome any
assistance you might give.”

Haryssus, replies, “So be it!”

With Fin’s alliance forged, the heroes fight back now aided by the giant.
Together they quickly overwhelm the guardian. Overmatched, and seriously
outnumbered the spirit’s time ends as Chen’s lightning wrapped spear is
thrust through the ghost one last time. The spirit howls once loud and long
as the spirit purchase upon the mortal realm is forever severed. As the
ghost fades, the heroes look first to each other, then to the giant, as they
all realize, against all odds, they have succeeded.

Bingus approaches the giant Haryssus, quickly taking a measure of the
giant’s magical bonds. They giant describes the ritual which would dispel
them, and directs the gnome to a pile of scrolls. With scroll in hand, and
Fin’s help, the two heroes fulfill their promise by bringing an end to
Haryssus’s confinement. Once freed, Haryssus tenders an offer,

 

“I will aid you, and perfect the flaws within your brands,
if you will surrender the sphere of annihilation to me for destruction.”


Believing in the danger posed by the sphere Bingus does not hesitate,
without asking the others he answers, “If you can do such a thing it
is yours Haryssus. I am sorry for the concerns I caused earlier. It would
have been wiser to approach without the sphere.”

In the hours and the days that pass Bingus and Haryssus become fast
friends and staunch allies. The gnome finds himself fascinated by the
giant’s advanced planar magic, and his specific lore concerning the Well of
Worlds. The giant’s knowledge extended far beyond the understanding of any
mortal mages. Inspired, Bingus
Kyussintroduces
Haryssus to Bejam when the Nefelus mage finally joins them within the Well
of the Worlds.

Over time, Haryssus reveals that had Kaius Dantus succeeded in his plot,
he would have precipitated a great Armageddon. It was clear to the giant
that Dantus sought the release of the Worm that Walks, an evil known by many
names, but among them all, Kyuss was the most common, and the most reviled.
The beast, one of the Elder Evils, a monster with the power of the a god.
Like most such creatures, legends suggested that the monster hungered
endlessly for conquest and destruction, but had somehow been trapped within
a prison since a time beyond man’s recollection. Tales of Kyuss bore many
uncertainties and contradictions, but all the lore agreed the worm had sired
of many of the most despicable creatures that plagued the mortal world,
hideous aberrations. All knowledge regarding Kyuss was feared by the wise,
and study of this ravenous evil was forbidden among all righteous civilized
peoples. And the thought that such an ancient evil might have so very nearly
been freed chilled everyone present to the core.

“Bingus, it seems the coalition owes you and your friends more than we
can ever repay.”


offers Bejam after hearing all Haryssus had told them.

“We all do!”


adds Megan of the Freeriders.


Bejam
The War Council

During your exploration of the Well of Worlds, Bejam sent word to the
Platinum Shield’s Coalition, requesting that they come to the Fane of the
Chanhiir for a war council to determine the Coalition’s next course of
action. However, as your mission to the Well of Worlds concludes not all the
members of the Coalition’s leadership have made the journey. Eoffram Troyas,
for example, has remained behind in Brindol to help deal with another
hobgoblin uprising, but a few have arrived. Specifically, Amyria is here,
and two other Coalition members have now arrived, Trellara and Odos. Along
with Bejam that makes a total of four of the Coalition’s leaders.

Additionally these members of the Coalition have been joined by better
than forty heroes who have arrived from the various city-states of Klarn.
These heroes arrived hoping to bolster the defense of the Fane, and still
more are arriving daily. The defenses Megan set up around the temple have
been redoubled. The approaches through the mountains have been secured by
the men of Thiradith. Thiradith rangers have set watchers atop the highest
bluffs to scan the skies for airships, and the Fane has been quickly cleared
to make room for new arrivals. They Freeriders have been carefully watching
for any signs of githyanki activity. So far, however, the Coalition’s
presence within in the Fane appears to have gone unnoticed.

Of course, the Brigade have taken the lead in the effort to keep the Well
of Worlds locked down. Initially an ambush line was set up to catch any
githyanki passing through the Sovereign Gate. In the bivouac, the Brigade
members have been joined by the Freerider’s dwarf Ragnum Dourstone who has
organized a small brigade of dwarves who have joined the effort. These
dwarves have been arriving from the nearest of the dwarven kingdoms, both
Icehome and Thunderhold have sent help. Already under Ragnum’s leadership
these dwarves had accounted for more than a dozen dead githyanki. And now
within the Well of the World, you have been joined the four present members
of the Coalition and both Ragnum and Megan of the Freeriders. All of these
new arrivals to the Well of the Worlds have already received whitefire marks
from the Nefelus mages assembled within the Fane.Ragnum

Ragnum reports. “They’re coming through the white portal
steady—scouts and strike teams looking to rest up. No sign yet that they
know we’re here, but we questioned one moving alone, said he was from
Utargarth, Utargarath, something like that. Someone named Kada’ne sent him
to the fane to see what’s up with the team supposed to be holding it. It’s a
safe bet there’ll be more like him coming through soon enough.”Odos

Odos is quick to recognize the names, ‘”Utargaraith’ is the name of
the interplanar shipyards where the githyanki build and repair their fleets
of astral craft and airships—Garaitha’s Anvil, as it is most commonly
translated. Garaitha was a corsair and military captain whose exploits are
legendary among the Githyanki, they have inspired generations of Githyanki.”

BingusBingus
points out, “The power of this Well of Worlds transcends any magic
known, among us, or any of the mortal races. If it was extended to their
wider network of permanent teleportation circles, the githyanki already
control and can create, they will be able to open portals at will into any
location, from any location, and not with vanguard strike teams and scouts
but with whole armies. Their assaults will instantly reach behind the
strongest walls and beyond the most well-defended roads and passes.”Haryssus

“In the brief time I’ve had here, I can see we have gained a valuable
ally in our fight against the githyanki,” Bejam says, nodding to the
eldritch giant Haryssus. “I have learned much of the operation of this place
from him, but I fear that it spells our doom all the same.”

Fin asks, “What is the purpose of the keyholes on the plinth over
the stair gate?”

“Four crystal keys once granted control of the Well of Worlds to the
highest-ranking of the githyanki. Queen Vlaakith held one, but her key was
said to be lost when she was destroyed. Zetch’r’r holds one, taken from one
of Vlaakith’s captains slain when the new emperor came to power. Kada’ne,
admiral of the githyanki fleet, holds one. Do’kan, general and master of the
githyanki ground forces, holds the third.”

Continuing Fin asks, “What are the githyanki’s plans for the Well
of Worlds?”

“The githyanki have made great advances in portal magic in recent
years—some of it stolen; some gifted by allies. Great numbers of eldritch
giants have become beholden to the githyanki, and many of us unwilling to
serve have been forced to servitude. For the last two years, githyanki and
giant mages have worked to carefully reshape the power that flows through
the Well of Worlds, hoping to see that power flow through the whole of the
githyanki portal network. Should they succeed, the power of the Sovereign
Gate will be extended, one node at a time, across all the githyanki portals
of the Astral Sea and the planes beyond.”

Pressing Finellior asks, “How can the githyanki’s plans be
stopped?”

“You might be able to assume control over the Well. The power of the Well
of Worlds is crafted and shaped by unique rituals—some older than time, and
many now lost, but to establish even minimal mastery of the Well would
require one of the crystal keys and the rituals of control uniquely bound to
those who bear them.”

Then speaking with a note of finality, Haryssus concludes,
“My knowledge and your mages’ combined power can ward
the Well of Worlds against assault for a short time, but we cannot hope to
control it. Already in the scant hours since you have come here, a score of
githyanki have passed through the Sovereign Gate, and more will come when
those your friends have slain are missed. When the githyanki realize with
certainty that you have taken this place, they will attack with numbers
beyond all reckoning. You few, brave as you are, cannot hope stand against
them.”Fin

“But what if we could find Kada’ne and take his key? I overheard the
githyanki talking, they said Kada’ne was on ‘Cev’ren’ … Could we locate
this? Could it be accessed by the Well of Worlds? If this is possible we
might be able to capture his crystal key.”

“The Garaitha docks are set with two score permanent portals. The docks
are a part of the shipyard called Garaitha’s Anvil. The Cev’ren is the
Admiral Kada’ne’s flagship, it is moored there. The shipyard of Garaitha’s
Anvil is built within another planar mote the githyanki suspended at the
boundary between the world, the Feywild, the Shadowfell, and the Astral Sea.
It is a dynasphere … a hollow world, from its surface, the ground curves on
all sides forming a perfect sphere centered upon a great astral gate. The
gate is the transit point of the githyanki fleet. Ships are built and
repaired there from raw materials stolen from the Feywild, Shadowfell, and
mortal planes. The Sovereign Gate stores the sigil sequences of the Anvil‘s
teleportation circles. With the assistance of your mages, Bejam and Bingus
it may be possible to extract some of these sequences from the Sovereign
Gate, but Garaitha’s Anvil is a vast place, heavily armed, filled with ships
and githyanki corsairs and soldiers.”

Trellara“We
are already too far from our homes and families—the places and people we are
bound to defend. This place, these planar sites you speak of are meaningless
targets. A majority of our many lands’ heroes are here now to defend these
places, and for what? This is a fight we cannot win, and as such, it is a
fight we should not consider. Waiting here for eventual attack or, worse,
seeking out the githyanki stretches our already over-extended resources past
the breaking point. Instead, we must ask what we might do to hinder the
githyanki. Slow down their plots to give us time to plan a proper defense of
our Klarn. Neither us few nor these adventurers have the authority to direct
the Coalition as a whole according to your whim. I move that this war
council be dissolved at once, and that we return to Sayre for a full
debate.”

Megan Swiftblade“With
due respect, you who have called yourselves the Coalition’s leaders most
often don’t appear to know what you’re doing. What I’ve gathered from afar
is you are at heart, bankers and merchant lords, the lot of of you, too
caught up in your own petty squabbles too unite in a proper defense of our
home. If the Brigade says we need to strike this Garaitha’s Anvil, the
Freeriders are with them and we are not alone! There’s nearly a hundred true
heroes here now all told and more are coming. Together with the Brigade we
are the backbone of this Coalition. We’ve the strength and the will to see
this through! With the Brigade calling the shots, I promise the rest will
follow!”

REWARDS:

Located while securing the Fane: 1,500 gp, one
githyanki icon (7,500 gp), and two potions of vitality,

(behind the secret door).



Whitefire MarkImproved
Whitefire Marks Level 20 Rare

(gained from Haryssus‘s assistance).

The whitefire mark is part brand and part tattoo, a mystical sigil
implanted only in the most trusted servants of the githyanki—those granted
access to the Well of Worlds. The sigils are a permanent magical brand that
burns with a white flame powered by the bearer’s own life force. A mark goes
black when its possessor dies, but its magic remains potent for up to 24
hours.

(This is what allows Bejam to recreate the whitefire mark for the heroes)
A creature raised from the dead within that time retains its mark. Talanee
of the Chanhiiri knows what the whitefire marks are and how they function.
If the heroes established an alliance with the Chanhiiri are told the
meaning of the mark. For others, a DC 23 Arcana check made on an active mark
or the mark of a creature dead less than 24 hours identifies the sigil as an
arcane token allowing a creature to make use of a powerful magic relic or
effect. A DC 28 Arcana check reveals the full nature of a whitefire mark.
Alternatively, Bejam can reveal the information after study.

The ritual by which the whitefire mark is bonded to a living creature
seems simple enough, but the exertion that shows in the effort to complete
it proves as the potency of the magic is imbued in you. As the ritual is
completed, the sigil flares to life on your wrist, its outline of white
flame writhing around the stark lines of a githyanki blade.

Though the mark can be covered by sleeve or armor easily enough, you feel
its flame still flaring—pulsing in time with the beating of your heart.

The whitefire mark’s power is revealed in two different ways.

I.

The power manifests whenever the carrier takes a short rest. The carrier
gains temporary hit points equal to 10 + twice the number of healing surges
the carrier spent since the last extended rest. This power function ceases
to function if the secondary power is used but will returning only after an
extended rest.

II.

The powerful mark can also be used to temporarily imbue an ally with the
mark carrier’s life force, allowing him to return to battle.

Power Daily (Standard Action)

Choose an ally within your line of sight who died since the end of your
last turn. That ally returns to maximum hit points and is dazed. The ally
can’t regain hit points, gain temporary hit points, or recover from the
dazed condition. At the start of each of the ally’s turns, the ally takes
damage equal to his or her level. The ally dies again when reduced to 0 hit
points or fewer or when the encounter ends. No character can be affected by
a this power more than once per day and once this power is used the
whitefire will go dark (non-functioning) until an extended rest is
completed.