Monthly Archives: December 2013

SOW Chapter15: Revelations

Revelations

 


           
Bingus
nods his agreement, and quickly explores the chamber scanning for any traces of
magic. In the bottom of the pit where the beholder had been hiding, there he
finds a ‘Ring of Regeneration’. And afterward,
on their way back to the stairs, the party finds the beholder’s true lair,
behind the second door in the outer chamber a the base of the stairway; it is a
richly appointed chamber, with some dried splatters of blood upon the walls,
soot stains the ceiling, and a floor speckled with platinum coins. 

He hands the ring to Ssarina,
and as she places the ring on her finger its healing magic spreads throughout
her body like wildfire stimulating raw nerves and triggering tingling sensations
everywhere where she had been hurt which was indeed everywhere. Torn scales
begin to grow anew; the fangs ripped from her jaw grow back, sharper than ever.
Still, there is a limit to the rings magic, and while its magic heals the
paladin’s body, it did little for her ebbing stamina, or the weariness of
Ssarina’s soul, it is clear that she is need rest, but there is no time or place
to rest here, and so she finds energy within herself, enough at least to taunt
the drow.


“I don’t want to sound
ungrateful, but I won’t need to ride your deathly steed, my legs are strong, and
thanks to this ring, I can walk; also thankfully, I have access a steed of my
own …”
Ssarina
sounds out a screeching call that no human voice could match, and announced by
the thunder of echoing hooves, an armor-clad, steed with a metal hide appears in
to view materializing within the dungeon.  

Bingus is quick to recognize
the magical beast, he tries to recall when he last seen the horse, whether it
was at Fortress Graystone or in Overlook, but he can’t decide, as the wizard
ponders the question, he fails to notice as Iroon draws close behind him, then
suddenly Iroon is there grabbing Bingus and spinning him to stare into the
gnome’s face with a crazed look, a look of madness.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The others gather around
Bingus, carefully staying out of arm’s reach. Quizzically they look at
one-another, each silently asking, “Can Bingus really have got any stranger than
he already was?”

Having
witness the gnome’s previous antics, and being in no mood to patiently wait,
Ssarina asks,


“Well are you going to rescue
me or should I do it myself?”
 

Fin
looks around the chamber, and then gesturing politely for a pause from Ssarina
the bard timidly asks, “Bingus is this still you or am I now speaking to Iroon?”

Bingus
just stares back glassy-eyed. Then the tower’s omnipresent voice calls out: 
 
Where
are my manners? I should have invited you upstairs a long time ago. Go ahead;
I’m sure you’re all getting a little tired. Why don’t you all come up and take a
nap? And what’s life without room service. I’ll send up a maid.”

“Make
it two!”

shouts back Hagrid
and as he heads for the stairs. The others follow, Bingus with them at least
physically, but completely lost in his own thoughts and those of the others.



The instant Iroon touches him Bingus’s vision of universe expands a
thousand-fold or more, it is as if his mind had exploded. Suddenly he sees the
world, his problems, and the people around him from a multitude of experiences
and perspectives, too many to count. For just a moment, he wonders at its cause,
but then he begins to struggle trying to comprehend the expansion of his own
mind, but it’s too much. He feels both infinitely large and small at the same
time, and he can’t help but question who he is, and then he starts hearing
voices; “Are they his own?” he wonders, but he can’t be sure. Some of them, well
at least one of them is, he thinks, struggling to remains calm. Then one voice
rises above the din, the comforting voice of Yu Gnuf … He encourages Bingus to
relax,



“Give yourself time.”



… then

without
warning Bingus finds himself starting to remember the future.



“Is the world really gone?”

he asks himself before remembering that
‘it is so’
, but only in the future. Things are different now. Quill agrees,



“Remember when you look into the abyss, it looks back at you too.”



“How did this happen?”

Bingus wonders.





“He did it.”



a random voice.



“Who?”

  Bingus asks …
“Faffernedi? … or isn’t he Vani now?”


 




“Everything is possible.”

answers Yu Gnuf.



“No, anything is possible, not everything!”

responds Noe of the Cliff People.


As the comprehension that you are not alone sinks in you begin to count: Yu
Gnuf, Quill, Noe, and one more resolute spirit who’s voice is familiar,
“Who are you?” Bingus asks.


 

“I
am at your service, Master Bingus; it is I, Asa Mantir, your most unworthy
servant, disgraced Imperial Guard for His Most Terrible Majesty, the Departed
Kalak of Tyr. As a penance for my many grievous failures I am here to serve you,
and see that you are successful in your mission.”


 



“Yes I remember you; we met in the desert didn’t we?”


 


“In the Thornwastes Master, when Jack, Knave of Skadi, summoned me to your
service.” 


 



“Oh, yes I remember now, you are a friend of Aenied aren’t you?”


“I was.”

 

Another voice cries out for
attention …
“Bingus are you alright, or at least as
close as you get?”
Bingus realizes this one is Fin, and that somehow he
had worked his way back to the stairs which he was heading up, still confused
Bingus nods. Finellior shakes his head and moves on following the lead of
Hagrid.

Level 2

 


Reaching the top of the stairs, Hagrid begins opening doors revealing a series of
small c
lergy
cells
.
These small, plain chambers contain nothing but simple beds and empty chests, so
with the others following he moves on to a wider section of the hall leading to
a set of double doors. Dim light from an indeterminable source fills the wider
hall, but the citadel’s ever-present shadows persist and grow deeper as the
goliath opts to head to the doors rather than to a second set of stairs leading
higher, waiting further down the hall.


 



Once again their host calls out:
 


Now I’m not bartering here, so take
note, I would … really appreciate it if you would, do something about my guests
here; I would myself, but I do consider myself to have a code, and it would be
impolite of me to just ask guests to leave. No, I’m afraid you’ll have to do it;
me, I’m just not one to ruffle feathers or scales for that matter. I’m not
worried anyhow; things have a way of working themselves out in the end, don’t
you agree? We all get what we deserve in the end.”


 


Hagrid opens the doors revealing the Dark Lady’s Hall.


As the center of Tiamat’s worship in the citadel, this huge chamber is large
enough to handle scores of worshippers, but only a few souls linger tending this
‘holy’ place. An altar hewn from dark rock is the chamber’s centerpiece; the
large hunk of black rock was set against the far wall of the chamber, and behind
it, there is a font which is filled to overflowing with clouded, dark liquid,
the font studding the wall. Two narrow staircases lead downward on the right
side of the chamber while several other closed doors provide access to other
areas. A heavily armored figure is kneeling before the altar, seemingly deep in
prayer.


 



Again the voice:


Bingus, you’re a bungler; I really must
insist that you not go in there, they might kill you, and I don’t want to have
that on my conscious. Besides then I would have to raise you and make you
another of my undead slaves just so I could take my revenge … A waste of time,
and then you’d be blaming me, but I don’t have any control over them, none … If
you go in there it’s your own fault what happens to you.”


 


 


 

Fane of Tiamat


 
   The dragonborn champion,


Kor-Karnaar

dragonborn champion rises spinning on his heels to face the intruders. His
sudden appearance forces a cry of anguish from Ssarina, both in reflection for
the pain she had endured because of this man, and for the loss of the heroism he
had represented in her life. Without any thought she charges, Hagrid follows
quickly behind her, and


Kor-Karnaar calls out to Ssarina:

 


“Ssarina, what you were
forced to endure; it was not right, but there are things at play greater than
you or I. You and your friends cannot be allowed to prevail! There are things
happening here you don’t, things you can’t understand, and here and now I cannot
not explain.” 

 

The adversaries collide
together, Kor-Karnaar rejects both Ssarina and Hagrid, and they are thrown
backward to the ground, stunned, they try and gather themselves; Kor-Karnaar
continues his rant:

 


“Battling you brings me no
pleasure, but failure is not an option; you should not have come here. I can
only offer you a quick, clean death.”


 


Rikar and the golem knight
enter the chamber with Wes, they are followed by Finellior, and Bingus waits in
the entry still plagued by intrusions of the other voices in his mind. A
crushing sense of loss momentarily overcomes him. He shudders with the
realization that, like so many others, too many, Aenied was gone … As large as
Bingus perspective now was, he was certain Aenied was gone, and his own
perspective large as it was, was still much smaller than it should be. Yet he
somehow knew all things must pass in order for the world to begin anew. He knew
this to be true; it was the sacrifice he had committed himself to, a task only
halfway completed, and still very much at risk. And this was no time for doubts. 
Yes, friends had passed and more would, but in the end, with the lords’
help the world would once again be whole, ultimate redemption was at hand. But
what had happened … what was

it?
Again confusion sets in. The future can’t really be the past, can it?


           
Darkness shallows Kor-Karnaar along with the back half of the chamber, as
two dread wraiths move through the walls, gliding effortlessly over the
stonework of the citadel’s floor until they flank Kor-Karnaar on either side.
Their dark auras blind Ssarina and Hagrid within a cloak of shadow. The wraiths
arm themselves with dark blades drawn from their ancient scabbards and attack
the fallen heroes without mercy. Along with the knight, Rikar rushes to their
defense, Rikar sends the golem to defend Hagrid, and the drow places himself
between Ssarina and the second wraith. Neither Rikar or the golem are impacted
by the darkness at in anyway, their senses were perfectly adapted for darkness.
Another tall, humanoid figure, powerful and stately, with an aura of command
rises from one of the narrow, sunken halls set at the side of the chamber; the
figure of Darrhkerrar, the human face of Tiamat, also known as He of Dark
Scales, or the Dark Scaly One. It had been his job to oversee Dr. Manne-Crocre,
a sharp, dangerous tool in the Dark Queen’s arsenal, but one who was not
completely trusted by the Queen. Knowing the invaders included Bingus, the
Doctor’s brother; Darrhkerrar was curious and had always wondered why the Doctor
had been so obsessed with his sibling. So the priest privately hoped he might
question Bingus, before killing him. So Darrhkerrar was not over eagerly to seek
out his death, thinking instead he might capture the gnome, but seeing them here
in the flesh, violating his Queen’s temple suddenly fills the priest with
righteous wrath, and he knows that he must make them pay; yes, he thinks, they
will make a fitting sacrifice for the Queen. Wes attacks Darrhkerrar but his
attack misses, and the priest responses with an assault of his own. He summons a
massive apparition of his Queen, complete with all five of her heads complete
with slavering jaws. The figment appears amidst the heroes snapping at Wes,
Finellior, and Bingus the three invaders the priest can see, only those immersed
in the wraiths darkness and Rikar’s horse, waiting in the hall outside of the
chamber avoid the attack, the rest are struck, and suffer grievous wounds that
both weaken and slow them.   

 

Darrhkerrar calls out: 

“Bow down, pray for
compassion if you would, but it will gain you nothing here; rather you should
plead for a quick death that instead I might grant you the sweet embrace of my
QUEEN’S fangs!”


 

The wraiths withdraw from
Rikar and his guard rising into the air above them. Kor-Karnaar attacks blindly,
but with a champion’s skill spinning his deadly blade in a wide circle slashing
out at all of his opponents at once, no one is safe; still Hagrid manages to
cutoff his retreat from the darkness, and there in the darkness Ssarina falls
upon him. The wraiths strike down at Rikar and the knight using their black
blades which hit but due to their protections cause Rikar and his guard no
injury; both were fueled by the necrotic power of Kas, both Rikar and his knight
find themselves immune to the wraiths’ attacks. Beyond the darkness, Darrhkerrar
uses his hand to mime a dragon’s bite, and a draconic head large enough to snap
down at both Wes and Fin appears throwing the two heroes backwards and knocking
them to the ground. Wes collapses, but one of his rings flares brilliantly on
his hand, healing and waking the halfling. Bingus still struggling to focus his
attention long enough to help casts a mirrored sphere spell upon the attacking
priest, but the


psychic component of the gnome’s assault negates any chance of success, for the
Dark Queen had long ago insulated Darrhkerrar’s mind against any such intrusion.
Darrhkerrar sneers and responds, blasting the gnome with a black bolt of energy
that knocks Bingus backward all of way back out of the chamber and says:



“True virtue reigns only in the ruthless application of POWER!”


 


           
No longer able to reach the wraiths, Rikar and the golem knight refocus
their efforts on Kor-Karnaar, attacking him from either side. Kas’s blade sinks
deep in the dragonborn’s side, and the drow fixes him in place, and with the
melee still completely cloaked in darkness; Rikar calls out to Ssarina,

“Strike woman, swing to your right now!”


 


Ssarina responds, lifting herself off the stone floor while sweeping her massive
blade in the direction suggested by Rikar, given the blow all of her
considerable strength, the blade flies in a great arc toppling Kor-Karnaar’s
head which flies from his shoulders tumbling through the air several feet before
it eventually lands hard upon the floor; only Rikar sees the blood streaming
from the stump of Kor-Karnaar’s neck, it showers Ssarina before the body finally
falls. With the others still blinded by darkness, Rikar continue to lead calling
out:
“Hagrid we’ve got this, return to the
others, they need help!”
The goliath responds charging out into the
light and bull-rushes straight into Darrhkerrar and before the priest can react
Hagrid lunges, hollering out with an unnerving howl unconsciously causing the
priest to shrinks back, as the 350 lb. goliath savagely attacks him. Darrhkerrar
is thrown back ten feet into the chamber wall, and tries to stand only to be
knocked down again by Hagrid. The halfling West Corrin joins Hagrid’s attack as
the priest scrambles prone upon the chamber’s floor at Hagrid’s feet. Suddenly
the darkness begins to withdraw from the room as the wraiths fall back and pass
effortlessly through the back wall of the fane. Fin begins using the magic of
his song to heal his allies throughout the chamber, and as Rikar and the knight
join Hagrid and Wes. Darrhkerrar never recovers.


 


           
In the aftermath of the battle, Ssarina stands frustrated towering over
Kor-Karnaar’s corpse, frustrated because she had wanted to ask him why he had
betrayed her, and because knew she might never know. Angrily, she throws
Mornujhar’s great sword to the ground then bends down and claims Kor-Karnaar’s
sword and shield, as she does she says
,
“Kor-Karnaar, you proved unworthy of these symbols of station, and so I strip
you of them in full knowing that I will carry them with the distinction and
honor that they deserve! May Bahamut forgive you, I will not.” 



 



Sword & Shield of Kor-Karnaar:



 



Weapon of the Conqueror

– Level 25 Uncommon



This dragonborn-crafted weapon’s hilt or handle is carved to resemble a dragon’s
head. Its magic enhances and expands the power of your dragon breath.


Level 25         
+5       
625,000 gold pieces



Weapon:

Broadsword



Enhancement Bonus:

attack rolls and damage rolls



Critical:

+1d6 damage per plus, or +1d12 damage per plus if you are bloodied.



Property:


You can apply the enhancement bonus of this item to the damage rolls of your
dragon breath power.



Power  Daily (Free Action)


Use this power as you use your dragon breath power. Your dragon breath becomes a
close burst 5 for this attack.


   



Barbed Dragondaunt Shield

– Level 26 Uncommon



Barbed Description:

Although a shield is usually a defensive item, a barbed shield turns the tables
on attackers because of the long spikes and blades attached to it. While too
awkward to use as a weapon, a barbed shield provides added protection against
enemies that attempt to grab you, because the spikes and barbs built into it cut
into them.



AC Bonus:

+2



Check:

-3



This ornate shield provides extra protection against dragon attacks and can be
activated to reduce the damage of an area attack.


Level 26                    
1,125,000 gold pieces



Arms Slot:

heavy shield



Property:


Gain resist 10 to all attacks of dragons.



Power  Daily (Immediate Interrupt)


You can use this power when you are hit by an area or a close attack. Reduce the
damage dealt by the attack to you and each adjacent ally by 15.


 



Additional Treasures:


 


A potion of recovery and six 5,000 gold piece gems … (carried by Kor-Karnaar)


600 platinum pieces and two potions of recovery … (carried by Darrhkerrar)


 


           
Anxious to leave, and still leery of the hidden presence of the wraiths,
little time is given to the exploration of Tiamat’s Fane after the battle; Wes
gathers a few potions from the fallen, along with a pouch heavy with platinum
and a half dozen gemstones carried by the fallen priest and Kor-Karnaar, and
they leave the chamber through the doors they had entered as their host
continues his banter anew:


 



“Haven’t you wasted enough time? Have you no pride, all this effort just to
rummage? Stealing from a church is bad enough, from the Dark Queen almighty …
that’s a special kind of stupid; especially when I can just conjure anything you
might desire. It’s too late for Bingus, but you others, just name it, anything
you want? All you have to do is turn over my annoying, worthless brother … Just
leave him and go … You know you want too, but no, you’re all too dumb for your
good, and a special kind of immoral! Imagine the shame, fingering through the
priest’s undergarments … I’m sorry, I think I’m going to have to disown you all;
transcending death and stuff like that, that’s my thing … I have no stomach for
this kind of thing really … I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, that now you’ve
sank to stealing from the dead, after all you are travelling with Bingus.
Speaking of, hey Bingus! Why are you being so quiet, it’s not like you, I am
starting to get worried about you, maybe your finally coming to your senses; we
all know that’s long overdue.”



 





But
Bingus doesn’t respond, as he once again finds himself trapped lost in his own
thoughts and those of others.

 



The world had died, and Bingus thought perhaps, he had a hand in its fall after
all. ‘Hadn’t he?’ His had been the hand that stirred the pot; he had cast the
first stone … Back in the underdark, past the caverns of the Kou-toa, the Deep
Ones who worshipped their dark god, Dagon. There hidden there in the darkness of
their lair, where he found Dagon’s vast treasury of forbidden knowledge. 
He couldn’t blame the ithilids either, as monstrous as they were, they
hadn’t forced his hand; no, he could have left if he’d wanted. No one had forced
him, and they could not break into the vault on their own. That seal required
the sacrifice of a pure soul, a soul untainted by any overt manipulations.


 


No, it
was his hand, the hand of their deliverance, the implementation and the
realization of Nyarlathotep’s plans. He himself had ushered in the Crawling
Chaos. True, his mind had already been shattered by manifestation of their
strange lore, and the pressure of his own guilt … it weighed heavy upon him, but
this same lore had provided a glimpse of what might exist beyond any known
reality, and somehow he had no choice, he had to make it real.


The
most merciful thing in the world, he understood was the inability of his mind to
correlate and comprehend all of its contents, but damage had been done.

 

 

 

 


 

 Powerful
as Raven’s Keep was it soon fell and the world followed, starting with the
Darkhaunt, and hidden beneath those dark boughs, the lords’ home Mendelland
fell; destroyed by the “Friends of Entropy” those gruesome beings that had
worshipped death from the very beginning; their quasi-religious cult that had
somehow survived in an intact state from the time of the “great destruction”
when the Lords of Mendelland had first carved Klarn from the ashes of their
former realm. In their ruined land, the Friends of Entropy had started out
simply wanting to kill all the animal life around them (which had forced them to
move often). As they wandered, they regularly feasted on contaminated flesh, and
traveled through radiated areas which caused their offspring to mutate rapidly.
These later generations ushered in a group epiphany causing the cult to modify
its thinking such that they became more inclusive as their goals shifted to a
desire to kill all life. Their leader at that time was a humanoid mutant named
Blern, was the ultimate model for the cult, but Bingus was sure how he knew
about him. 






A
t
his birth, as Blern’s flesh was first exposed to the air a poison gas was given
off, it killed his mother and the attending midwife; prompting his proud father
to design a uniform for him so that he could travel with all the rest of group
without killing them. As he matured, he continued mutating; growing a pair of
horns, and requiring tinted goggles to travel through the harsh light of day,
and he had to breathe through a special filter that extracted all the pollens
from his air. His mental and physical powers also increase, including some new
powers totally unknown previous such as the ability to communicate with any
‘thinking’ machines so that such instruments and automated constructs, acted
immediately on anything Blern wished them to do.

 


This was a very handy power to steal but he didn’t know the answer.
  Machines don’t know the answer either
well maybe L.O.C.I. does, but it may not be the real answer and you can’t trust
his answers either. Father knows best!

 


These
powers made the conquest of Castle Raven particularly easy; their reliance on
the old forbidden magic of technology made them an easy target for Blern and his
Friends of Entropy. The cult was well-prepared, and too well-armed to be
stopped. They traveled with the Chaos, immune to the almost inescapable madness
it caused in all others. Perhaps it was because the Friends of Entropy were
already mad, or maybe, Lord Grithstane protected them, regardless they had come,
and they left only ruin in their wake. After Mendelland fell, the Lords of
Mendelland left Klarn in disgust, leaving the people behind to fend for
themselves with only the help of their heirs, the sons and daughters of
Mendelland, and the knights of their realm. Eventually these forces rallied and
destroyed Blern and his followers but only at great cost, and ever after these
powerful survivors had started blaming each other for their world’s destruction.
The most powerful these had already begun taking on the mantle of living godhood
themselves, but they were too foolish, too arrogant, and too ill-prepared, and
the era of the Dragon Kings began, but that hadn’t been how Bingus had begun?


 


Someone was shaking him …. “Bingus, do
you want to open these doors or keep climbing the stairs.”
asked Fin, with
growing impatience.


 



“I don’t care, do whatever you want, the world is doomed!”



cries out Bingus.


 



“Whatever, it’s a waste of time talking to him, I will go in
!”
offers Hagrid.


 



“No, you have no skill for stealth.”

answers Rikar. “Let me show you how it’s
done.”



 


Hagrid agrees. And Rikar whispers “Just
stay here at the door and keep quiet!”


 


Responding their host says,
“Really, do you really think everyone doesn’t
already know that you’re here?”


 



If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice



You take the chance and roll the dice



When you chase the moon in the dead of night



You’ll lose your soul without a fight!


 

Level 3

 

The Library of Eldritch Lore


 

The
doors they were discussing stood to the right, midway up the stairs, which were
marked at that point by a larger landing. It was another set of doubled-doors,
but the stairs also continued to rise.


 


Dr. Manne-Crocre’s voice rings out again, but whispering this time in keeping
with Rikar’s request:


 



“There are many, many things in this tower for you to play with, but not in this
room… I’ve been a good host; I haven’t asked so very much. So be polite, don’t
make me angry; it wouldn’t go well for you if you make a mess in there … Play
nice.”


 


Rikar enters the room alone, Hagrid waits peeking in from the entry. The drow
sees many bookshelves; they dominate the walls of this large chamber, lining
most of the walls, and there is also huge mosaic of Tiamat adorning the floor,
intricately presenting Tiamat in all her fearsome, majestic glory, it covers
much of the main floor. Then suddenly, many things within the chamber begin
vying for Rikar’s attention. In several areas in front of Rikar whirling funnels
of gray smoke begin to spin, and elsewhere, to the north and south looming
clouds of blackness appear and begin swelling, but not like the wraith’s
darkness, this is more alien, Rikar’s night vision still gives him egress to the
darkness’s source, aberrant, diabolical-looking rays float in the heart of the
darkness, not unlike the devil-rays of the ocean, but these are forged of evil,
and then one of the mosaic’s head’s lifts off the floor, the green head and it
blasts the drow with a cloud of poison gas that covers both Rikar and Hagrid,
still peering through the crack in doors. The funnels of wind, had started
taking on man-like features, and as the pressure of the wind grew it had started
to whine and move towards Rikar. The yellowish-green gas immediately burns and
blinds both Rikar and Hagrid, both respond instinctually; Hagrid backs away
choking, bowling into Finellior who almost falls down the stairs, and Rikar
bolts from the chamber. Finellior holds his breath and shuts the door behind
Rikar.  


 


 




D
r.
Manne-Crocre stored many of his books of esoteric knowledge within this chamber,
and he didn’t trust many of his living minions with such treasures, so like he
had in the entry, here he created several guardians, ritual-born sentinels set
to converge upon would-be trespassers, and the few allies the doctor did trust
to a point, they included Dr. Ratinstein, the construct LOGAN, and his most
trusted associate, Lucian of Rivenroar.


 


           
Lucian waited there within the library’s private reading room. He was
unconcerned by the party’s invasion of either of the citadel or this chamber;
Lucian had ‘lived’ a longtime, longer probably than any mortal should and he
didn’t fear death, and he didn’t believe they could kill him anyhow. Rather,
Lucian was looking forward to the interruption, so much of his long life was
tedious and boring; he had been anxiously waiting for this encounter and the
greater Lucian’s disappointment when Rikar fled from the chamber. As Rikar
flees, watching from the reading room Lucian speaks under his breath, to no one
but himself,


“Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh at you or pity you.”

 

           
As they depart, Lucian
stands, deciding to give chase, thinking to himself ‘Perhaps we can put an end
to this battle of brothers. I weary of their bickering. Let us see finally who
is the greater, perhaps this will be more entertaining than slaying them
myself.”

 

 

         

Bingus was barely hanging-on;
his attention wasn’t on their progress but rather on the chaos in his mind
brought on by Iroon’s possession. He could not even tell if the thoughts we were
having were his own or other’s and if not his own then whose thoughts were they? 

 



As Bingus thinks about it he remembers three families:


 


I
was a noble … a bastard wasn’t I? Or maybe the orphaned son of Andaviri gnomes,
which was it? … Ah yes, the family credo



Never trust an Andaviri’

comes to mind, and it was certainly good advice,
generally speaking, but your parents, Bingles and Pippy still weren’t your real
parents. In most ways they were better than that, at least as best as I can
remember. My real fathers, Kartenix, the Captain of Guard and Lord Divian
Torrence are both dead (there is another bit of jinxing … He is dead too, but
not dead trapped, or not, shattered…It is hard to understand. What am I talking
about? His name it was so long ago and his name changed so many times



אב



בבקשה

half sunk, and shattered. The visage lies, with frown and wrinkled lip, and
sneer of cold command mocks us all … damn.



So if Bingles and Pippy are my best parents, best I ever had after all. Thinking
about them, triggers Bingus to think about when they’d found him, it was
sometime after he was rescued from Rivenroar by the Brigade; confusing because
he remembered being driven from those ruins too; maybe it was both, …
 I’m certain at some point they adopted
me. (So many families all connected. Is this intentional on the Lords part?)
They felt bad for what had happened to me and my father. (There it was again,
dad had died in the ruins hadn’t he?) But how was I holding myself prisoner when
my father died … He was eaten by spiders? I didn’t have any choice in the
matter; the evil cabal of Asmund ‘Mole-head’ Argitakos and his bullying buddy,
Snorre ‘Mole-arms’, along with my dear brother had been too strong to resist. My
parents were just jacks-of-trade, cobblers by day and minstrels by night … or
the other way around. It really didn’t matter, and what they did didn’t matter,
they couldn’t stop the cult. They did what they could, and taught me how to make
the most wonderful shoes, and that’s



how


I survived, plying the streets of Overlook selling shoes, begging, and doing
whatever it took.


 



But wait; hadn’t I been raised in a castle, amid the monuments and statues of
the March that was my true home wasn’t it? And I’m not really a gnome anyhow; I
am taller than my parents, almost a foot taller and I’m still growing! When
Orion showed-up with the tubby cleric, Lama Amya Seff, they took me to
Mendelland, that place is awesome, but how had I arrived in Brindol and what was
I doing in Overlook anyhow?


 



Hmmm, (trying to remember) … I had come back to Brindol with Eoffram and Quill
after they had found me in Overlook back when my name was Thurann Kenth …
‘Thurann Kenth!?’ Pausing Bingus asks out loud:


 



“Quill what was going on then, do you remember?”
 



Finellior responds, but Bingus doesn’t hear him, he is listening to Quill, not
that anyone else hears him.


 



“Yes, I was following Bairdyn through the dark, filthy byways of Overlook; we
were searching for the Lost Ones. It was amusing side trek, the hobbit; Bairdyn
was defending his character as it was … He was trying his best to convince
anyone who he would listen that he wasn’t a thief. These, scallywags, the Lost
Ones were involved in the kidnapping of a friend, a fair maiden, Jalissa was her
name, and let me tell you she was a beauty. That was when you approached us.”


 



 

“That’s
right, I remember now. We found Jalissa, and you took me back to Brindol …
Jalissa and I, had been looking for the Brigade, Sertanian had sent us, then
Jalissa was kidnapped, and my dad, Bingles found me alone living in the streets
… Eventually we came back to Brindol and Orion showed up. I think he was mad
because I shattered the Whitestone.”


 



“… No, that wasn’t it was it?! … Drat, I’m getting confused again!”




Again Finellior asks, “Bingus, what are
you talking about? Your, not making sense.”
… Bingus ignores him and
speaking to the others Fin says:


 


           
“I can’t believe we are following
him? Even at the best of times he can’t be trusted … Now he worse than ever!”



 



“Quiet son … Let me try to explain before you go mad again
.”



offers Yu Gnuf interrupting Bingus’s thoughts.


 



“You are more than any man should be, more than any three men should be right
now; you are all of that and more. You are Kenth, you are Ian, and now you are
also Bingus and Iroon too, but Bingus has to control things now. The rest of
need be quiet.”


 



“Dat is right! De ladie is a jealous lover, and she be wanting dis gnome bad for
a longtime … I am working da big juju now … He don’t need none of your
jibber-yap now!”


 



“Iroon please … Kenth son of Kartenix, was raised by gnomes. Ian Whitestone was
not, but neither do they truly exist as separate entities either, not any
longer, not if they ever did. Things have been such since their imprisonment
together within the Tomb of Limbo. This is confusing for many reasons, not the
least of which is, because from your perspective, Bingus, it hasn’t happened yet
and maybe gods willing never will.”



continues Yu Gnuf.


 



“You’re not making sense!”

protests Bingus.


 



“I’m not making sense? … I not making sense … Do you hear this? Bingus, what the
hell are you talking about?”

declares Finellior.




“Perhaps not, from a mortal perspective, but if you expand your mind, use your
expanded perspective, maybe you will understand this greatest of mysteries I
have ever encountered. It would be Kenth, who would eventually unleash the true
chaos into Klarn, but first he will grow and became a great and powerful man,
the High Cleric of Klarn, but eventually the same man would also be seduced by
forces darker than you can imagine; forces aligned now against Ian Whitestone,
and too well known by your ‘brother’.”


 

“After
the manifestation of Nyarlathotep as the people of Klarn lose their way, Kenth
will bring about the rebirth of Darklens by allowing himself to be possessed by
the spirit of the ultimate Dark Lord; only Ian’s brave sacrifice forestalls the
end of the world, when together with Kenth, he tumbles into the Tomb of Limbo
locked in a mortal combat with the Dark Lord. Bingus you are familiar with
Limbo, are you not?”


 



“Yes, yes I am.”

Bingus answers
“No, you’re not!” answers Finellior.


 



“At least you think you are. The Tombs of Limbo were constructed by the Lords of
Mendelland to imprison Darklens forever. Since their creation they have been
guarded by the so-called ‘savage-elves’ but in truth I have found these elves
are the least savage of people living on Klarn; it is just that they take their
calling seriously. Unfortunately they could not, or from your perspective, will
not be able to stand again Blern and his, Friends of Entropy. When they fall
Kenth will violate the Tomb of Limbo. This has already happened once and it will
again; it cannot be changed in future, the past is our only hope and we can only
do this once. And only with ‘his’ help … He is that with whom you are now
joined, and he is most powerful mortal who has or will ever exist within the
world of Klarn … We dare not mention his name for he is utterly mad and yet he
holds the fate of Klarn in his hands. Do not ask about him; do not even think
about him, not now, not ever!”


 



“Trust that he is not here now, not wholly, better that he remains asleep, awash
in the ‘Dreamlands’ a captive of Phobic Animus. I have kept this secret to
myself until now; I already fear I should have held it longer still … You’re
still thinking about it … Let me try this …”


 



“In the rarest of accords, the Lords of Mendelland, formulated a plan to defeat
‘him’, and they shattered the ‘Whitestone’ into eight equal portions, each Lord
free to create what they would of each part, that was part of their agreement. I
am one of these, a librarian, the keeper of Ishtar’s memoirs, and there are or
were the others: Jeroen was the first you met, Virizan, Aenied, Iroon, Quill,
Noe, and Asa Mantir. Three of us are already gone, and if all goes well the rest
of us will follow… We will deconstruct. Only then can that which will occur be
undone. I believe it unwise to say any more about than that, I fear I have said
too much already.”     



 





Quietly, inside this time Bingus responds to Yu Gnuf:


“Wait, wait, wait, a need just a moment of lucidity please … A while ago, you
mentioned my father Bingles and my mother Pippy.”



 

“Ho,
ho and you were worrin about da bad mon … Now how you going to explain dis?”



 



Bingles
and Pippy, the cobblers, were Kenth’s guardians.


 


“I’m quite certain they are my parents?”


 



“You don’t be soundin so certain … Sa’a fou! Dye mon, gen mon.” 


 


“What does that mean?”


 



“He is afraid you are losing your mind … And Dye mon, gen mon? … Iroon, correct
me if I am wrong … Beyond the mountains, more mountains?”


 



“Dat is right!”



 



“Think about it friend, I met your folks in Overlook, and I’m no expert on
gnomes, but I don’t believe they were not that much older than you yourself.
They said they had come out of the same ruins where you were, Rivenroar, you
spent time there right? So you must have known them.”



 


“Yes, but I remember them, but in more ways than that.”


 



“You don’t have time for this now, suffice it to say you remember them both as
adoptive parents and friends; they may even be the source of your current name,
but you will only confuse yourself by thinking about it. Things will be clearer
soon.”


 



“Why did I want to kill all of those elves?”


… Bingus asks out loud again. 
“What elves? Bingus
you have to wake up!”

Fin starts shaking Bingus again.


 



“Please, do not dwell on that either!”


 



“Ha, Ha … Ha … He is just keeps a-knocking at da door.”


 


“I don’t understand, how am I supposed to not think about something I know
nothing about?”


 



“Ti moun fwonte grandi devan baron.”



“He says, ‘The impudent child grows under his eyes.”



 


 

Minions
of the Doctor



 



           


Hagrid leads the party to the top of the stairs, as he reaches the top Rikar
begins to speak, but Hagrid cuts him off saying, “Your stealth worked so well
last time, I think I’ll just open the door this time.”



 

Without
waiting for a response the goliath opens the doors revealing a small, bare
chamber. To the north are two short corridors, their walls studded with doors.
In the northeast corner stands another pair of double doors. Unseen behind the
doors waited t
he
Doctor’s most devoted followers. LOGAN doesn’t linger long; he emerges from the
left hall and advances down the hall announcing:


 


“Intruders detected. Composition: Bingus Brigade. Probability of hindrance: ZERO
PERCENT! … Trespassers will be shot on sight, survivors will be shot again.”


 


Rays of light flash at LOGAN’s gleaming metal shoulders; they, send beams of
light, small targeting circlets targeting Hagrid, Rikar and Finellior (the next
in line at the door) painting them with light that dances across their chests.


 


“Lower your shields, surrender your weapons, resistance is futile!”  


 


Hagrid charges colliding mightily into LOGAN bouncing off ineffectually, LOGAN
is completely unmoved, effortlessly he bats Hagrid sending the goliath flying
across the chamber.


 


 


Ssarina presses hard in the back of the party surging forward hard enough to
force both Wes and Finellior into the tight confines of the chamber as they make
allowance for Ssarina’s pressure.


 


Looking at the lights at play on his chest, Fin exclaims
“Great, this is just great … friends,
this is LOGAN … Don’t think about running, you won’t get far. He is already
targeting us, and he is almost impervious to attack. He is half-man,
half-construct, permanently trapped within that gleaming suit of armor. Dr.
Ratin-steen can’t be far …”



 

“RATIN
– STEIN!”



squeals a high-pitched voice.


 



“Is that the rat doctor?!”

shouts Ssarina.



 



I
am not an animal
!”



yells the squeaky voice.


 


Ghostly transparent rats with glowing red eyes, screened by a sheen of dancing
electricity, appear quivering and racing about the chamber covering the floor;
another brilliant beam of energy pounds into Finellior hurling him to floor in a
sprawl against the south wall of the chamber, where he is immediately buried in
the swarm of immaterial rats.    



 



“Go Away! So much has been done — more, far more must I do! Master you promised,
you promised! Save me …”



 


Ssarina had heard enough, she dismounts and charges, dismissing her steed to the
nether from which she called it; she stops just short of LOGAN and announces,


“Logan, your battle ends now! You will not move past me, and you will stop
targeting my friends now!”




She



lifts Kor-Karnaar’s shield high, pushing back again LOGAN’s armor, his shoulder
cannon fires, and sends a stray blast careening into the north wall next to Dr.
Ratinstein’s hall, the stonework explodes, a large chunk distingrates in the
blast, but the rest showers everyone in the area and sends Dr. Ratinstein
fleeing back into the chamber from which he’d emerged. Wes joins Ssarina and
Hagrid struggles to regain his footing. The dire influence of the doctor rats
begins taking a toll upon the heroes, causing a miasma of psychic fallout and
pain as the rats nibble away at their minds.




 



“Okay, I’m angry now. Dragon-lady, I’m gonna give you one last chance, cause
Sergeant Fury is good like that, but so help me if you mess-up my aim again I’m
gonna have to kill ya, you and any other sumbitch who takes a shot at me, I’m
not only gonna kill ya, but I’m gonna track down your horse, bleed out yer
friends, and burn down your damn village! … Get em boys!”



 


Ghouls explode from all the doors racing down the short halls filling every
available inch of space in the chamber. Their filthy claws sink in available
flesh, paralyzing both Hagrid and Wes with supernatural toxins embedded within
the ghoul’s nails. Ssarina bats Kor-Karnaar’s heavy broadsword against LOGAN,
striking with all her holy furor, not worrying about LOGAN’s armor because her
target was something deeper, something not protected by the armor, Ssarina was
smiting LOGAN’s soul! The blow stuns LOGAN. Still hidden beneath the rats, Fin
avoids the ghouls attacks long enough to break Wes’s paralysis with a song of
invigoration.


 



Run Wes, run, run your fast feet



And hurry up your pace



Free of claws, spells and poison



And don’t let them hit you in the face!



 


The bard’s magic works, and Wes magically transforms himself into his energy
form, as a corona of sparks he begins racing through the chamber destroying the
ghouls with his passing, their poisoned, tainted blood rains down and pools on
the chambers floor further injuring everyone still in the chamber. LOGAN begins
to shake off the stunning effect of Ssarina’s attack, but the  had struck him
deep, and he is still dazed. Wes continues his flight pursuing Dr. Ratinstein
all the way to the small room down the short hall. The ghost rats in the main
chamber disappear, and Wes reemerges seconds later carrying the rat doctor’s
head. Despite Ssarina’s best efforts LOGAN’s struggles continue, and then in a
rare moment of clarity Bingus uses a spell to enclose LOGAN within a magical
mirror sphere, yelling to the others:



“BACK-UP!”


 


Back outside the chamber, on the landing that had preceded the stairway, Rikar
and the blackstar knight wait keeping guard at the rear of the party, Rikar was
being distracted by the singing of Kas’s sword within his mind, the sword seemed
pleased with their progress, The blackstar knight remaining steadfast and
watchful, no one would approach its master assailed. Below them waited Dark
Hoof; uneasy in the tight confine and uneasy footing of the stairway, but there
was no space. Then suddenly, Dark Hoof stampedes after a magically summoned
globe of acid explodes on the dark horse’s hind quarters. Luckily for Rikar, the
golem steps between him and the stampeding horse and uses its mass, which more
than doubled the horse’s 2000 + pound, halting the steed in midstride. Dark
Hoof’s hind quarters were still smoldering, and the horse neighs in protest.
Rikar springs past them to view down the stairs, and on the larger landing below
he sees Lucian, pausing long enough for the sorcerer to say,



“You should run now, I come from a long line of slayers, but you don’t have to
take my word for it I assure you.”



 


Rikar leaps down the stairs, but Lucian vanishes and Rikar is greeted by pain,
as a vice closes over his head screaming within his mind, he hears only Lucian’s
voice,


Does no one pause to think, did you not
hear my warning?”



 


Rikar searches but he can’t see Lucian, the sorcerer was invisible or worse, but
the knight pushes past Rikar engaging seemingly empty space, and then the knight
is rewarded by another acid bath, just like Dark Hoof had been before him.
Outfoxed, Rikar orders a swift withdraw, and together they race up the stairs
towards the chamber above.


 


Within the chamber LOGAN rises still enclosed within the magical sphere which
his sensors can’t perceive. He strikes out at Ssarina with a spiked adamantine
fist, and his twin shoulder cannons fire at Fin and Bingus; All of the attacks
reflect back upon him, LOGAN implodes, sparks fly, as the attacks completely
unhindered by LOGAN’S armor strike. LOGAN collapses sending a new shower of
sparks bursting in as he lands flat on his back like a turtle, and then with
a final explosion, pieces of smoking metal scatter exploding off LOGAN’S fallen
form along with bits, of blood and charred flesh, some pieces large and some
very small. All that is left of Sgt. Fury is a burnt, shell of a body, a chunk
of quivering, oozing flesh. LOGAN’S heart stills bringing a final end to the
mighty engine of destruction that he had been just as Rikar, his horse, and the
golem join them in the very tight confines of the small room amidst the gore and
stench of the dead ghouls.


They allow Wes the briefest of respites to examine the quarters located down the
short hall, but the halfling finds only


spartan rooms that had evidently been the living quarters of the Doctor’s elite
guardians. The rooms were filled with ghoul stench and rotted trash; Wes finds
nothing of value. Then


Bingus’s brother addresses all those still gathered in the main chamber:


“You know, I’ve had visions of this day. I know all about you, all of you. I’ve
studied you. And I knew this day would come; about the only thing I don’t know
is that which I’ve wanted to know worst of all, exactly how all of you will die.
I guess we will all find out soon enough.”



As they listen Bingus’s mind begins to drift with the ebb and flow of his
thoughts until somehow he is drawn once again into the deep water thinking to
himself, unconsciously never realizing why … Why did the elves had to die. The
elves kept their secrets to themselves … That’s why! Yes, that’s why they had to
die. And I want answers; since they weren’t going to share you decide to rip the
thoughts from their living minds … Killing them was simply a mercy after the
fact, a demonstration of my generosity. How many had I killed? I never counted,
was it hundreds, thousands, maybe whole cities of elves?




STOP!”



c
ommands
Yu Gnuf, never had Bingus ever heard him speak so adamantly. He breaks the
gnome’s thoughts with certain clarity, but Bingus had seen enough of that
particular rabbit hole anyhow, too much really and they were right … Bingles and
Pippy both were and were not his parents, but try as he might he couldn’t seem
to remember any other ‘gnome’ parents, and Bingus had seen both Kartenix and
Lord Divian die, both deaths were unfortunate, and neither had been his fault,
but he hadn’t been able to save either father. Now only Bingles was the only one
left, but he was somehow with him even now and not in any metaphysical sense,
but elsewhere in a different place than here and now. Even though both Kartenix
and Lord Divian were both dead, Bingus suddenly feels certain he could join them
if he chose to, and again not metaphysically. Maybe Yu Gnuf was right, maybe he
was already mad. Then as quick as they had come the voices grow quiet, as if by
Bingus’s sheer force of will, this time somehow he silences them!



“Let keep moving, we are too crowded here, and we are being followed.”

says Rikar.



“By who?”

asks Finellior.



“I’ve never seen him before.”


answers the drow. “But he is a powerful
practitioner of magic; I saw him for only just a moment, after he attacked my
horse. He had pale skin and a haughty expression
.

“That
makes sense, he would be Lucian; he and the Doctor often travel together, he is
a powerful sorcerer. We must be getting close.”


adds the bard.



  
 They
begin moving down the hall, this time following Rikar and the golem knight,
Hagrid is next, then Ssarina and Wes, followed by Bingus, and finally Finellior
who tentatively leads Rikar’s evil-looking stallion as he follows Bingus, the
gnome stumbles and almost falls, saved only by the wall next to him.


Suddenly Bingus’s feet sway unsteadily even as his mind rebels without warning.
Fin hears him say: “Think!” out loud
as if speaking to him.



Inside Bingus is sudden lost again saying ‘Remember’ … Not the future, only the
past. I am both Kenth and Ian … I remember both at various times in their lives;
as children, as young men, and as adults. Both were great men, of very different
upbringings, talents and lives, and both led amazing lives, benefitting from
their unique skills. Both were unquestionably brave and powerful men.



Kenth, priest of Prometheus (the Titan hero and trickster, credited with the
creation of man from clay, and known for his defiance of the gods), had what
most would consider, a tragic upbringing. You were raised by your father
Kartenix alone without the aid of a wife; she had died when you were born.
Kartenix was captain of the guard at the time both you and he were kidnapped by
Sinriuth and the other hobgoblins, but only you had survived. There in the ruins
of Rivenroar (where your


brother found Lucian Von Adrez) you met the gnomes whom became your parents,
Bingles and Pippy. As far as gnomes go they were kind, and you were alone and
hungry, but not only then, but again when they found you later in Overlook;
Overlook, the dwarven city where they starting teaching you their trade. Your
father was Bingles, not Bingus, and neither were you!

https://snt145.afx.ms/att/GetInline.aspx?messageid=c9485fe7-5572-11e3-89d8-002264c2570e&attindex=24&cp=-1&attdepth=24&imgsrc=cid%3aimage031.jpg%4001CEE93C.7C7A9140&cid=ba0adf3548075153&hm__login=astriemer&hm__domain=hotmail.com&ip=10.4.56.8&d=d2519&mf=0&hm__ts=Tue%2c-03-Dec-2013-04%3a43%3a25-GMT&st=astriemer&hm__ha=01_ad30ecfa3d839605b0112504c5ebbc4c86f5fcf66ed78ebb68c5d8e310102e61&oneredir=1Confusion
sets in, at this divergence … two paths, one end … both involving the Lords of
Mendelland and your friends: Jack, Zardoz, Orion, Faffernedi, and even Elkatron
who in his early days was not so very different from Rikar. You had taken
shelter at his keep hiding from the others after your transformation began. (He
had a giant armored weasel; he fed raw meat and halflings, didn’t he? Was it of
his own will or by the command of someone greater than himself?) The others
turned from you almost immediately, but even you had to admit you

https://snt145.afx.ms/att/GetInline.aspx?messageid=c9485fe7-5572-11e3-89d8-002264c2570e&attindex=26&cp=-1&attdepth=26&imgsrc=cid%3aimage035.jpg%4001CEE93C.7C7A9140&cid=ba0adf3548075153&hm__login=astriemer&hm__domain=hotmail.com&ip=10.4.56.8&d=d2519&mf=0&hm__ts=Tue%2c-03-Dec-2013-04%3a43%3a25-GMT&st=astriemer&hm__ha=01_d2fd7307c9aabb046c8bc7cf0fc8b256a78e4adbc72896d0d4f67a12070b721b&oneredir=1had
it coming …




A dark silhouette begins to form in your mind’s eye, just an outline, ripe with
danger; and then with a herculean effort of focused determination you shut it
down realizing that your heart is pounding and sweat has beaded and begun to
drip down your face. Your friends are looking at you strangely; giving you a
moment’s pause … You wave them on and continue, lost in the flow of thoughts
once again.



Ian is different, born out of wedlock into a wealthy family, son of the Governor
of Sayre, he had been blessed with a certain wealth, granting both a first class
education, and some measure of nobility, but regrettably inside you know both
your stepmother and father, cared little for you. And from a young age you knew
you were more talented than either of them. You could hardly believe you were
related to either of them. You always had more in common with Orion, the first
person you met whom you felt was at least as skilled as you yourself, and maybe
even more, but unlike Orion, it was your mind the made you special, only
Faffernedi and later, Kenth had ever been your equal, but had either of them
ever defeated three ithilids at the same time in a psionic battle to the death:
Your friends hadn’t even realized what was happening at the time. And it was
only you who had learned how to manipulate yourself in time, it was limited to
be sure, but even the sages of Ishtar couldn’t summon multiple versions of
themselves in the way that you had mastered, but that had been your undoing too



But then the diabolic figure reappears, and with even greater clarity than
before. Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future…

“STOP!!!”
yells Yu Gnuf.




“What, where am I?”

Bingus says. Fin is looking down at the gnome who had slumped to the ground, and
Bingus realizes he is lying upon the cold stone floor. He realizes Yu Gnuf is
right, He can’t let himself keep going to that dark place, the eye of the storm,
but before he can stop himself he blurts out:



“You are saying … Kenth and Ian are different people, but also the same, just as
I am myself now too? They went into the Tomb as two and emerged as one, and they
must be stopped. Just as one once emerged as two? Regardless, this must never
come to pass, but has in the future. This is why Jeroen is the way he is or was.
He is Ian, and so much more, too much so! He, they are more dangerous than I had
ever imagined, and still both heroes too, but wait … there is more, so much to
say that I can’t fully comprehend. There are eight of them aren’t there? But,
three are gone, leaving five, more if you count Ian, Kenth, and even myself
…And there were eight pieces of the stone, five are left, the stones carried
by Ian. Virizan was the




first to fall
,
and we were lucky with that only we didn’t know it at the time, but then Jeroen
died at




Garaithas Anvil
,
next Aenied



fell
,
and now it was Iroon’s turn. The Oracle of Narsbane was right, and it has always
known what would happen!”




           
“Yes, that is essentially
correct.”


except that the Oracle is going to get one thing wrong



So this is why Jeroen is the way he is or was. He is Ian and he wasn’t, or more
correctly, he was much more. Sadly, you realize he is dead now, or at least gone
… If he ever truly existed at all, he died in the shipyards of Garaithas Anvil,
and he wasn’t alone. Virizan fell in Cachlain’s bloody arena, and Aenied
sacrificed himself in Arantor’s lair; and here now, Iroon was doing the same, he
had given you the full measure of his power!


Again Bingus shouts:


“Iroon, you shouldn’t have done this, take your power back!”



“Bel anteman pa di parade”



This time Bingus translates Iroon for himself,
‘A beautiful funeral doesn’t guarantee
heaven?’



“No, I am afraid not … And I am afraid, and very happy to say I cannot. My job
is almost done, do not be trying to make it more difficult. Se met ko kiveye ko.
It be job to be taking care of yo own self now. Where ever should da Baron be
but her is his ladie’s arms anyhow?”


Level 4



B
one
walkways thrust outward over a natural cavern that in places plunges more than
110 feet downward into the bowels of sharp rock as the group approaches:


 

The Undulating Crossing



Unlike the previous chambers, the area facing Rikar crosses a large natural
cavern.



 


The entry lies high above the cavern’s floor on its western wall. Ahead, Rikar
sees several walkways forged of bone; they lead to the eastern wall. Below the
walkways, a field of sharp rocks covers the floor of the cavern. Rikar gestures
with an open palm advising the others to wait, and peers about the chamber, but
sees no movement.


 


His patience at an end, Hagrid pushes forward, telling the drow:


 



“I’m done waiting, you follow me!”


Pushing forward, Hagrid begins crossing the rickety looking crossing. He
imagines that he feels tremors, and begins worrying about his weight, wondering
if the path had been built to carry a goliath, or rather maybe possibly only a
gnome. Then without warning, something sharp jabs him in the neck!


 


Immediately Hagrid’s knees buckle, as he’s forces to struggle to maintain his
balance, and he plucks a finished dart from his neck as the dart’s poison begins
to burn beneath his skin. Then a large monstrous humanoid as large as Hagrid
himself appears in the thin air in front of the goliath blocking the path! 


 

It
had dark ebony skin and great, massive, yet flexible clawed hands. It powerful
torso is heavily muscled marking the creature as a deadly opponent. It moves
forward and begins clawing at Hagrid mercilessly with both hands.


 


Wes tries to rush to Hagrid’s defense, but finds his progress instantly blocked
as an even more heinous looking creature appears leaping from the darkness of
the cavern’s to interrupt the halflings progress. It snarls, pulling up its
quivering lips, exposing razor-sharp teeth, while crouched before Wes in the low
manner of a stalking predator.


 


Rikar drops down on one knee, and spreads his fingers wide over the ground,
summoning his own brand of magic, pulling roots laced with magic, forming an
entry on the ground, then stepping through the magical egress opens an exit on
the far side of the chamber near the exit on the east wall of the chamber.
Quickly Rikar lunges forward striking the first creature, an invisible stalker
in the back with Kas’s blade and follows by hooking the monster’s neck with his
cruel sickle, a weapon made out of one of the claws of the



Beast of Monadhan
,
another beast that had almost killed Hagrid. The sickle opens a wide gash; the
monster sweeps backward using its great strength to brush the drow aside. Then
stone knight appears beside Rikar and slams the creature backward within range
of the warden who reaches out and knocks the creature to the ground. The second
creature leaps at Wes, but the halfling shifts skillfully backward, deftly
dodging the monster’s lunge. Ssarina steps forward, still weak from her
imprisonment and she valiantly shields Wes, Finellior and Bingus from the
monster’s charge. Suddenly, Rikar’s horse, Dark Hoof, bolts into the chamber,
barely stopping in time to keep itself from hurling to the cavern’s floor, and
as the path narrows, the horse skids to stop; again the horse’s backside is
steaming,  and bones were now protruding
from a fresh wound caused by  another
acid attack.


 


           
Seeing Dark Hoof’s dismay, and knowing its cause too well, Rikar leaps
back through the root-gate and races back down the passage from whence they’d
come. The golem remains and advances on the stalker, but the path suddenly
undulates with a massive buckling wave that tossing Hagrid into the air and
nearly over the edge. The goliath reaches out desperately catching the edge of
the pathway with one meaty hand and dangles there as the stalker slashes
Hagrid’s arm with dagger-like claws until the 5ooo + pound golem grabs the
monster and pulls it back holding the stalker at bay. Grateful, but almost
embarrassed by Ssarina’s almost foolish heroism, Fin says, “You’ve done
enough, I’ve got this.”
and steps in front of the dragonborn engaging the
fiendish predator singing all the while.


 



Onward heroes, onward heroes!



Fight until we win!



Hack and slash, thrust, parry, bash,



On through till battles end … (U-rah-rah)



 



Onward heroes, onward heroes!



Plow through the fray.



Fight, allies, fight, fight, fight!



And we’ll win the day.



 


The song fills the chamber, lightening spirits, lessening wounds, and giving
fuel to the party’s heroic exploits. Then the monster attacks hurling Finellior
over the edge; thankfully in the course of his travels Finellior had learned
quite a few tricks, one of them being: Davros Elden’s aerial step, a power that
allows the bard to almost walk on air, gently he glides to the ground below.
Less gracefully, the monster falls past him, disappearing back into the darkness
of the cavern’s floor.   


 


Rikar stares down the hall, spying out Lucian. The sorcerer stands tall,
scowling, with an aristocrat’s bearing and calls out to the Drow.


 


 “It is a strange world, sad world, a
world full of miseries, woes, and troubles. And yet when the Doctor calls you
all seem eager to dance to his tune. Courageous silent hearts and the dry bones
of would be heroes have decorated graveyards throughout the history of man. I’ve
witnessed the burning tears of their widows and children they left behind. It
would have been wiser for you to have left when the doctor gave you the chance,
but he knew you too well, and perhaps the strain on you has become too great;
regardless, your end is finally truly upon you, all mortals break., some just
slower than others.”



 


Rikar responds, “You’re may be right,
but we don’t need to fight. Why do you serve the doctor? Why not leave him to
his own means. This battle with Bingus is long overdue. Why you or I stand
between them?”



 


Lucian offers a subtle grin:


“Indeed, that might be more amusing, since I cannot be your friend and entertain
in fair well-spoken ways, why not then take leave of me and be upon your way. I
find you entertaining drow you do not need to add me to your troubles, be gone
then.”


      


           
W
ithout
little warning, the massively muscled hairless beast bursts from darkness
snarling in front of Finellior. Thinking fast, the bard activates his new cloak,
the one he’d plundered from Jelendra’s chamber; instantly he becomes invisible
and dances aside allow the monster pounce pass him, missing Finellior entirely.
Frustrated, it crouches again and leaps, powered purely by its muscle, the
monster sails through the air sounding out an incomprehensible cry of mayhem as
it returns to the bone walkway above. As the monster appears Bingus is waiting,
and he quickly dismisses the monster, forcibly hurling the monster into an
alternate plane, the feat that was now second nature to the gnome planeshifter.
And deeper in the chamber, Hagrid gains purchase back atop the pathway and
quickly puts an end to the stalker’s struggles. Suddenly silence settles over
the cavernous chamber. Until Dr. Manne-Crocre once again breaks the calm:


 



Why
are you all still here with Bingus? I don’t get it? Look at him! Clearly, he’s a
little sunny on the sippy-side and he’s never going to change. Just let him go.
All I ever wanted to do is make a little Bingus-berry pie. I know I like pie,
and I’m sure you do too!”



 


 

Level 5

 


O
nce more as a
group they begin to climb the final flight of stairs. Bingus still looks crazed,
maybe worse than ever. Sweat was beading on his face, his gate had changed, and
he was fiddling with Gilgathorn’s eye-patch alternately flipping it up or down.
From the party’s perspective, Bingus barely seemed to know where he was, and he
was prone to outbursts of most nonsensical nature, like an unfortunate victim of
Tourette syndrome, the neurological disorder characterized by repetitive,
involuntary movements and vocalizations or tics. 
 
Most of the party was successfully ignoring Bingus, but Finellior
couldn’t, unlike the others he had noticed a pattern to Bingus’s ramblings …



In his mind Bingus thoughts were reaching an epiphany, suddenly he realizes that
both Ian and Kenth belonged together at the eye of this apocalyptic storm, fate
brings them together, and the world had or would suffer, even die, but he asks
himself what if the Lords hadn’t left, or what if they never did? Bingus had
never put much stock in the ‘Lords of Mendelland’ being a child of the Feywild
they had sounded interesting enough, but they were hardly even a footnote in the
Feywild, yet here in Klarn they did mean something … Thinking about it he
realizes that somehow, he suddenly knows an awful lot about them.



There are eight Lords of Mendelland, and one other, the Darklord they destroyed,
called Darklens that they didn’t talk about much at all. Ishtar was their Lord
of Fate, Destiny and Prophecy. It was said, Lord Ishtar could also remembers the
future and he studies the past, looking for hidden truths, secrets, and
combating any falsehoods perpetrated by his brother Malakon the All-Knowing, but
Lord Ishtar was also the Lord of Gates and Travel, and he could grants his
followers powers over the fabric of both time and space. And hadn’t Vani claimed
to be Ishtar’s apprentice, and Vani had said that Lord Ishtar had



sent

him to Overlook to protect him?




Spindle, my spindle, haste, haste thee away,



And here to my house bring the wooer, I pray.



“Spindel, Spindel, geh’ du aus,



bring den Freier in mein Haus.




“What is that?”


… Again, an unknown voice; it answers your query,


“das ist deutsch mein freund”




“Who are you?”


“Well that depends let me see hmm … interesting a better question would be who
do you want to be who do you want to be today do you want to be just like
someone on TV”


“Who are you today then?”


“One thing I don’t know why it doesn’t even matter how hard you try”


“But I will tell you this it’s a fairy tale you should know that much aren’t you
from land of fairies”


“Hah there you go I’m not a fairy and I know more about fairy tales than you”


“Have you ever even been to Arborea?”


“Why don’t you want to tell me who you are?”


“Maybe I already did, or maybe you don’t exist, or maybe I’m you did you ever
think of that”


“Maybe you should figure out who you are ‘gnothi seauton’.”


“Things aren’t the way they were the way they were before you wouldn’t even
recognize me anymore”



“There are eight, aren’t there?”



“But, three are gone, leaving five, more if you count parents and children for
lack of a better term.”




“And there were eight pieces of the stone, five are left, the stones carried by
Ian—the Ian Stones.”



“Virizan was the first to fall, then Jeroen and Aenied, and next Iroon.”





“The oracle of Narsbane was right and it has always known what would happen”



“What is the Oracle of Narsbane?”


“Oh you don’t want to know it its craaaazy”



“Bingus what are you doing, what are you thinking about?”



asks Yu Gnuf.



“Shhhhhh”


“Limbo.”



“What about Limbo?”


“Limbo is a place of pure chaos where everything is in constant motion and
change, like the landscape, right?”



“Correct.”


“So everything changes, space, physical relationships … and maybe even time?”


“Time and memory are true artists they remold reality nearer to the heart’s
desire”



“You describe the plane of Limbo more or less correctly. But the Tombs of Limbo
were carved out of that stuff as something different. They exist outside of time
and are timeless.”


“Outside of time?”



“Time does not exist. It is simply an illusion of our mind created by our own
biological and cultural evolution.”


I ‘M in UR box. Maybe. LOL.


“Love is a many splendored thing … All you need is love … True love is eternal
and knows no bounds …Ah, I feel better already.”



“What? That’s not the kind of physical relationship you were thinking about.”


“Am I sure about that”



“Sympathy constitutes friendship; but in love there is a sort of antipathy, or
opposing passion. Each strives to be the other, and both together make up one
whole.”


“Cats and dogs all over again



I’m late I’m late for a very import…”



Bingus!”
… Yu Gnuf shouts. Bingus’s brain hurts with the loudness of it thinking it odd
that he was shouting at himself in his own head, but then he begins to realize
it isn’t him that is doing the shouting.

Bingus!”
… Yu says again firmly but not as loudly. The fog in Bingus’s brain clears if
just a little, enough for him to hear.

Once
again Bingus recalls the future at the pit of the Oracle. They had discovered
that the price that it demanded for its prophecies, the sacrifice of human
souls. He and his companions, Orion, Zardoz, Jack, Elkatron, Logan, and
Faffernedi had invaded the Oracle’s lair and determined that his price was too
high, and we decide we must destroy it. But given the monster’s gift of
prophecy, he knew that we were coming. Still its powers were limited, the
monster could not predict its own death, but it knew that we were coming and it
had prepared for us. More importantly, it knew that I would be there and it left
out gifts that it knew would lead to our downfall. It was there that I found the
Cloak of the Manta Ray that let me plumb the depths of the



kou-toa’s

sunken city and thus the Oracle did have a hand in the world’s destruction,
didn’t it? Realization sets in as the thoughts playback scene after scene, but
it was really himself he was thinking about anymore, not as Bingus, I wasn’t
there, was I? Yet I can see the party and the Oracle tipping over the caldron of
blood, dumping its contents to the floor … There, I see it, skeletons rising out
of the blood!



The creature, ‘The Stalker’ seems desperate, but it pauses for a moment and then
it seems to grow even stronger and croaks and chuckles,



Ha,
your weird approaches. Behold your doom is neigh …”



It looks towards the southern doorway and there is a pause as everyone looks to
see what it is looking at. There is a pregnant pause, but nothing and no one
passes through the doorway. The Oracle having lost its momentum begins mumbling
and it scrambles to escape, hopping and scampering about madly:


 
“…no,
no, he is supposed to be here, where is the distraction, where is he, this is
not right, the priest, he, I don’t understand, I saw him in the vision, it…”



Taking advantage of the momentary lapse in the creature’s concentration they
renew their attack and the Stalker quickly falls dead at their feet. Bingus
turns walking to the doorway, and through, but also not through …



(
Save
me from the nothing I’ve become. Breathe into me and make me real.
)



Bingus!”
Yu says once more emphatically,


“You must return to your companions and aid them against your brother. This is
not the time or place for reflection.”



“Don’t be harboring any foolish notions of bringing me back, so long as you live
in a world of delusion, you’ll never really find, and accept the truth, or your
future.”



 



           


Finally Bingus hears his brother’s call. Here at the uppermost level of the
Mantled Citadel is where the characters will finally reach the l
air
of the perfidious one,


Dr. Manne-Crocre in all his infamy and glory.


 



From the beginning of Time,



To the threshold of Death, and beyond,



Brother has tread upon brother—



I in darkness, always in darkness



And now here the remnants of our ancient feud can finally come to close—



 



By the rite of Blood, the Queen declared



He must die, so that she might realize her eternal victory, her birthright—



And you too who were dust, will be returned to dust—



For this is your fate, and my deliverance,



And who am I if not your alpha, and your omega my brother?



 



It is time to embrace who you are, and experience the release of my entropic
embrace—



And just so you know, you CANNOT save Him,



We, you and I, needn’t to have been enemies,



Not when we share so much in common.



If only you had realized you were not me,



And I am who you always should have been!


 


 


 

The Lair of the Perfidious One



As they arrive at the top of the stairs, doubled door open inward to the chamber
welcoming them, within the chamber the crystal ceiling allows dim light to
illuminate the plushly arranged chamber. Eight crystalline pillars hold the
domed ceiling aloft. A large statue of Tiamat stands toward the back of the
room. Behind it, five alcoves pierce the wall each representative of a different
member of her chromatic line: White, Green, Red, Blue, and Black.



 



A short gaunt, figure in violet robes trimmed with black feathers stands on a
riser set before the pillar; his face is hidden by a strange black plague mask
made of dyed leather and assorted metal pieces. He carries an elongated ebon
wand-like tool is in one hand, and the other is raised high in a somewhat
threatening manner, ablaze with crackling, dark arcane power. Clearly he is
aware of you but he is paying you little heed choosing instead to focus his
attention on a large glowing tome set upon the pedestal designed to look like a
skeletal hand. He says:



 



 “From here, I have gazed far beyond over
the gloom of the Forest of Twisted Souls, and although in truth my own choices
brought me to this benighted place, I have no regrets. New allegiances availed
me of terrifying opportunities. Who among those living upon the pool of mud
known as Klarn has my power, my discipline, and too the knowledge to utterly
destroy a god?”



 



“And how ironic is it that this was never really My goal, but rather just
another clever ruse I chose to finally teach Bingus the lessons he needs worse
of all?”



 



The tome slams shut and disappears, and with it the Doctor’s appearance subtly
shifts and then seemingly amused with himself the Doctor adds:
  



 



“Oh, I weave mysteries more twisted than the forest itself… Bow, Bingus, bow to
my munificence!”



 


           


T
entacles
erupt from the floor grasping at the party of heroes both in the chamber and in
the stairs beyond the chamber’s threshold; almost instantly, Hagrid, Rikar, Wes,
Finellior, and Bingus are caught. Ssarina summons her mount and withdraws out of
range as the Doctor lifts his hands high above his head, fingers spread-wide,
slightly-curves, and begins bathing the party in cascading waves of fire. Chaos
ensues as the heroes struggle to break free of the tentacles while being
roasted. The Doctor backs off the pedestal into the green dragon alcove behind
him. One of the tentacles tightens around Wes’s throat and the halfling begins
to lose consciousness. Ssarina pauses looking for a way through, but the
tentacles completely fill the hall leading to the Doctor’s lair, and emerging
from both the walls and the hall’s floor; stymied she reaches out and pulls
Finellior free, but even this effort almost pulls her from the saddle of the
celestial mount so weakened is she from her imprisonment and their previous
exploits. Inside the chamber the Doctor gloats:



“Evil is fun, evil is fun, even more now that I’m done … Bingus, you know what
you have in common with a cow about to leap over a thorn briar? … Impending
utter destruction!”      



 


           
Free of the tentacles, Fin redoubles his efforts sounding a stirring
shout to his comrades-at-arms, that stabs deep into the Doctor’s psyche with
both the power of the song and the bard’s will; it hits with such vigor and
tenacity to cause an inkling of doubt to creep into the Doctor’s mind; and the
bard’s perfect pitch cuts through the din of battle filling the hearts of his
allies with courage matching the bard’s own. Dr. Manne-Crocre employs more magic
from the cover of the green alcove, using the suggestive power of a green
dragon, he draws the bard back into the range of the tentacles, but then
Finellior takes advantage again, using his own magic to entice his allies to
even greater resolve, adding fuel to their own efforts helping them break free
of the Doctor’s spell. Hagrid, Rikar and the golem succeed and close on the
Doctor attacking him from all sides; the Doctor swings his black wand hitting
Hagrid painfully, and then Doctor vanishes, the hero’s blades clashing where
he’d stood, but striking not but open air! The Doctor cackles and laughs.


 


           
Inside, Bingus’s mind all of the voices calm save one, the clear dominant
voice of Iroon:


“Neg di san fe … People talk and don’t act; Bondye fe san di … God acts and
doesn’t talk … Now is time for you to act broder. I bid you ado …. HA, HA, HA …
HAA!”



 


Bingus feels a rush of energy unlike any he’d ever felt previously, like being
waken from a dream after a sound sleep, he finds both his body and mind fully
refreshed, fueled with the full extent of Iroon’s power. The Doctor’s tentacles
fall away, as Bingus spies out his brother using Gilgathorn’s eye-patch and
finds him hiding invisibly now within the red alcove Bingus calls out his
location, and quickly and launches a spell at his brother. The Doctor retaliates
with a pounding shockwave that vibrates the entire chamber knocking those
closest to him over, Hagrid, Rikar and the golem all to the ground and the
Doctor sets them ablaze. Then the Doctor moves to closer upon Bingus, but still
burning and prone upon the floor, Hagrid reaches out grasping blindly sweeping
the red alcove with on massive hand and catches the Doctor’s leg and announcing:


“I didn’t give you permission to leave.”


 


Uselessly, the Doctor tries to pull free and yells out:



“Drat!”


as Wes adds to the Doctor’s frustration holding one of his enchanted daggers
high, using the blade to focus and harness the arcane energies within him, and
launching a thunder summons foiling any possible escape. Rikar and the golem
close in stabbing the Doctor repeatedly. And thanks to the bard, all of these
efforts are that much more successful and serve to harden the party’s resolve.


 


Having suffered enough the Doctor turns visible and falls at Hagrid feet choking
on his own blood next to Hagrid, then he turns to face the goliaths, removes his
mask offering the goliath one finally bloody grin, behind that grin Hagrid
stares in horror as he sees Bingus staring back at him, and then the gnome
disappears leaving nothing but air in Hagrid’s closed fist that had previous
gripped the Doctor’s leg.


 


           
The room grows silent then suddenly the bright happy sound of frolicking
gnomish minstrels fills the chamber, Bingus recognizes music, as the sound of
his parent’s troupe of players. The music sounds for a couple of minutes, then
the deep bell tolls, and the music stops … An eldritch chant begins, the sound
of some dark, unspeakable rite, and a dark silhouette, a shadow-being, 3 feet
tall, the source of the chant appears and begins wandering through the chamber
eventually taking a position back upon the podium, and lifting arms high as if
he was beseeching the very heavens above.  Bingus
tries to attack the shadow but the wizard’s attack passes through the shadow
figure unencumbered, without any resistance striking to the blue alcove behind
the podium. Then Bingus’s brother reappears, in new fanciful attire, and speaks,
only with even greater strength and authority, and with a power that is as much
felt as it is heard; he addresses the group saying:


 




     


Heroes
of Klarn, you have granted the rarest of audiences, with me; allow me to
introduce myself; I am Gelf Darkhearth, The very Lord of Entropy and Vengeance!
Here you will learn to pity your ‘friend’, my brother, as he is finally and
evermore cowed and beaten. I am heartened that you have made it this far, I had
expected you to have already been crushed, crushed as easily as I have crushed
all who have dared to oppose me. Know that I am power unlike any you have known:
absolute, infinite, and unrelenting. You have no choice but to die or to prepare
for a long dark future as my subjects—and slaves, but before we begin all that
please let me reiterate … Oh sorry, that’s a big word isn’t it? Allow me to
restate … Let me just say this … Your mission is done. You have all wasted your
time. I finished the ritual long ago; it is finished, as you will soon be. This,
all this has just be a play, a clever ruse (that means trap) for Bingus, thank
you all for delivering him to me in one piece.”



 



   


Wes charges, Gelf lifts one finger, freezing the halfling in his tracks, and
speaks again this time addressing only his brother:





 



“One last thing, Bingus did you really ever think yourself my equal, even for a
second?  Let me explain something,
again using small words so even your friends might understand. There was a time
when all was harmonious (that means good) before I got lost in a place I called
limbo. Nothing made sense there, and time soon lost all meaning; eventually I
took a left turn at Tartarus, and eventually I escaped. When I did I noticed a
disharmony (that means not good); a dissonance, (oh I give-up); it was the sound
of a being at odds with all existence. So I investigated its origin, its source,
and after wandering for days or years in the space of an instant, I discovered
that it was coming from my wand … Both it, and I had been displaced … Someone
had taken my place, this imposter, called himself Bingus Petrakos, and he was
exactly my height and shape, he, even dressed in my clothes; I found him living
in my house, but he wore a different hat, and a new coat. He had even tried to
convince Sheyanna Flaxenstrand that he was actually me. Can you imagine my rage,
he had all but ruined my wand, which has been out of tune ever since! Of course,
I challenged the charlatan, but he knew everything about me and suddenly, I knew
him too.”



 



“He was clever, and thoroughly unrepentant, I realized immediate we were fated
to battle eternally. How appropriate that we in our own strange way are not
dissimilar to the dragon heirs, but a least their battle is an honest one
siblings who fought to the end. Whereas Bingus is just a pretender, a punster of
the worst sort; the thief who has made a mockery of me and everything I have
ever been. And you know what he believes. He thinks he is the one who escaped
from limbo, the best of me, and that he escaped leaving



the worst of himself behind … He said that … TO ME! By self-admission he is
antithetical to all that I am, (sorry I mean contrary, or very bad). And so when
the Dark Queen’s servants approached me, I determined to turn their desires to
my own use, to raise my own stakes, and to once and for all to expose Bingus for
the fraud he is and when I am done and finally every gnome wherever they may be
knows the truth in their hearts; finally, the joke will come to a close. And,
now it is time for me to exact my revenge, here in the epicenter of the battle
for the multiverse itself, where creation is in precariously balance against the
threat of universal destruction … So allow me this one moment to show you all
exactly what I see when I look at Bingus, you deserve that much at least …
Bingus reveal yourself; size of a sea cucumber!”



   




Gelf
grins, and with a ‘popping’ sound, Bingus shrivels taking on the size and shape
of a living turd. Gelf laughs and leaps from the podium, prancing about
gleefully to Bingus and withdraws a glistening mirror from his pocket. As he
arrives he holds the mirror in front of the sea cucumber and shouts:



“You see? This is what I see every time I look at you!”


 


All at once, Bingus’s allies begin to bolt toward Gelf who is suddenly laughing
incessantly …




“Wait, wait you all have to see this! … Dance, dance everybody, revelry now!”






All-together
they start to dance, even the sea cucumber wiggles pathetically. Pleased with
his work, Gelf Darkhearth, begins his own flamenco dance, slow at first, then
speeding up until he is rapidly stamping the soles of his high-heeled boots all
about, inches from the sea cucumber; the dance starts with an exaggerated
display of courtesy, but soon it degenerates to an arrogant and boisterous
behavior which includes loudly snapping of fingers and additional taunts, until
suddenly, the sea cucumber squirts out a large (considering its size) gooey,
grotesque, foul-smelling discharge made up of its own guts and bodily fluids.


 



“AHHH … Look at what you’ve done BINGUS, control you bowels, this instant … Why
I believe (an exaggerated sniff) … Yes indeed, you’ve squirted out your own
guts. Imagine, once you even thought you were me, what a disappointed you’ve
turned out to be. See now you really are gutless. Never fear my
‘little-brother’; I’m generous, I’ll put you out of your misery soon enough,
just not quite yet.”


 


Gelf snaps his fingers and Bingus reappears, with a yellowed-complexion, soiled
and curled in a fetal position upon the floor. Gelf’s is overcome once again
with gleeful laughter; so fully engaged is he that he loses track of everyone
else, so much so that one-by-one, they find themselves free of the compulsion to
dance, and one-by-one the find themselves able to finally act. Hagrid attacks
first, closely followed by Rikar and the golem, together they circle about Gelf
from all sides striking in tandem, and score several grave wounds. Near to the
center of the chamber Fin begins to sing, drawing magic into himself and
channeling power to his allies, calling them to ever greater efforts. Engaged on
all sides, Gelf reaction is immediate as he wakes to his predicament, and he
becomes the center of an explosion, a powerful burst of light shed in a rainbow
of colors that is so overwhelming that it blinds, stuns and weakens all of
Gelf’s attackers, and fills them with a crippling nausea. Making matters worse,
Gelf vanishes again, turning invisible and teleporting simultaneously. Angered
Gelf heads to the door intent of killing Ssarina before the others have a chance
to recover. His confidence swells, assured that his invisibility will protect
him as  he spies out to severely weakened
dragonborn. Finding her he grins as he points his wand at her chest. 


 


           
On the far side of the room, Bingus staggers to his feet and almost
immediately fall again, but he self-corrects gaining his balance and makes a
quick adjustment of his silver skullcap, and then still blind, he focuses,
drawing on a new, nearly godly insight Bingus pictures the chamber using his
mind’s eye imagining where his brother might actually be and literally blind, he
casts a disintegrate spell where he thinks his brother might be.
 A thin, green ray springs from Bingus’s
pointed finger and it strikes Gelf’s invisible body dead center in his chest;
Gelf reappears, and as Ssarina finally sees him, she finds herself staring
through a neat hold blasted in the gnome’s chest. Gelf manages to turn his head
long enough to stare back into the chamber, and tries to cry one last time to
Bingus, and his lips move, but he finds he is unable to speak … Words still on
his lips he topples over. Still recovering, eyes yet blurry Bingus staggers over
to his fallen brother, he drops to one knee, and reaches to roll Gelf over and
as they touch Gelf vanishes and Bingus immediately topples, collapsing to the
floor. Together Ssarina and Fin arrive at Bingus’s side. Tentatively, they begin
searching for injury and quickly they realize that Bingus isn’t breathing. Fin
rolls Bingus on to his back and Ssarina opens his jacket, and rips open the
wizard’s vest exposing his chest, there they see a neat circular scar. Then
Bingus wakes heaving, and tries to sit-up, choking and begins grasping for air,
tear filling his eyes; and then, when he can finally speak he cries out:


 


“Bahamut is DEAD!”


 


 

Aftermath:


 


Having defeated Gelf, and searching his chambers, and most importantly the tome
at the podium Klarn’s heroes confirm Bingus’s brother had already wrought a
powerful, unique ritual for Tiamat. The large book contains his research notes
from them Bingus concludes the following:


 



1.        
Somehow Tiamat convinced, Kor-Karnaar the dragonborn champion, to betray
Bahamut’s temple in Celestia and he stole the only copy of a ritual that enabled
Bahamut’s high priests in Majyst to summon his patron in physical form to Klarn.



 



2.        
Because only a powerful follower of Bahamut and a goodly aligned high
priest could complete the ritual, and only then if they also had a cause
significant enough to garner Bahamut’s attention, 
the theft might have proven to be essentially useless to Tiamat, if not
for Klarn’s Lords, Grithstane and Malakon, but these Lords of Klarn had allied
themselves with Klarn’s other dark lord, Tiamat, the Dark Queen, and together
they had conspired to destroy Bahamut’s avatar upon Klarn, their rival Lord
Magnus which served and catalysis for the Majyst summoning. Thus their plot had
begun more than 20 years previous when through the destruction of Magnus they
had created a void, and a reason for the forces of good to attempt the summoning
of Bahamut in the first place.



 



3.        
The stolen ritual was eventually delivered to the dragonborn of Klarn’s
Mystic Isles, to their island home, Majyst where their well-meaning, but
terribly misled leaders sought to use the ritual hoping Bahamut might revive
Lord Magnus or take his rightful place among the hierarchy of the Lords of Klarn
never guessing that they were being played by forces allied with Lord
Grithstane. When the summoning was completed darkness fell upon them in the form
of a pair of Tiamat’s Exarchs, Chillreaver and Veri-zan, and the Red Beast of
Klarn, Ashardalon, Master of the Fane of Scales, together they captured Bahamut
while he was in still the guise of the feeble old man and for over a decade they
tried in vain to kill him, managing only to torment and torture him, keeping him
near death, but failing to kill him.    



 



4.        
Together Lords, Grithstane and Tiamat conspired, devising a plan, and
they reached out to yet another power, one who knew how a god might be slain,
Vecna the Lord of the Rotting Tower, the god of destructive, evil secrets, and
they worked out the terms of a bargain in which the Lords of Klarn trapped
Vecna’s nemesis Kas within Monadhan, in exchange for a ritual with the power to
slay a god.



 



5.        
Copious additional notes describe the Doctor’s work on the ritual and
employed Mornujhar to tracking down various extremely rare objects that would be
needed to cast the ritual, and the final pages of the book record the ritual
itself, and a copy of the ritual as altered by Dr. Manne-Crocre to permanently
slay Bahamut himself. And so, Grithstane through his followers had worked for
over ten years to slay Bahamut. Bingus’s brother had completed the ritual, but
the book did not provide an exact date of the ritual’s completion that
information came from Bingus himself, who after his contact with his brother had
become convince the ritual was done. The completed ritual had been delivered to
Tiamat the day they had arrived in the Forest of Twisted Souls; it was their
arrival that triggered the Doctor to deliver the completed ritual.



 



6.        
Finally, Dr. Manne-Crocre’s notes make it clear that the version of the
ritual in the book was not really designed to slay Bahamut, but rather to slay
Iuz. Initially, the ritual hadn’t been effective upon the old man; it only
worked after Bingus’s brother had rewritten key portions of the ritual rekeying
it for use against the Platinum Dragon. The final pages include the completed
version of the ritual that Dr. Manne-Crocre had already delivered to Tiamat.


 


 



Another 600 platinum pieces and ten more 5,000 gold piece gems are found in Dr.
Manne-Crocre’s personal chamber.


 


 


 

Epitaph


 

Leaving the Land of the Dead

 


After the heroes make their way back down the citadel’s stairs and open the
doors of the Mantle Citadel it takes several moments for their eyes to adjuster
to the light of day; after the battle the sun had broken through the ever
present clouds to fill the forest valley with brilliant rays of light. The few
ominous looking trees that had survived the fires of their entry clung to the
far edges of the spiraled path seeming somehow healthier; some were even adorned
in a sprinkling of new buds that had just sprouted; the buds were obvious in the
trees otherwise naked branches. And only a short way from the citadel’s door,
just a few steps down the path Vaneval still lied, but now his body was now
covered with deep bloody gashes, and the half-dragon’s head was missing, and
behind Vaneval a greeting party waited: Rikar’s two missing Knights with
Hagrid’s son Ramok, Wes’s brother Dell; all together with Iroon.


 


 


 


 

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Seeing
them, Bingus rushes to the Baron, and gleefully states


“I thought you were dead, I thought you were all dead!”

 

“Allo
zanmi’m … I am where I always is here at the crossroads of life and death …. Ha,
hah … I am the man that cannot die … I am here to tank you all, you have earned
my ladies blessing, and so she had freed both da Corrin broders and Ramok
promising them safe passage here to da hereafter, and so finally it is a
BEAUTIFUL DAY.”



“What’s he talking about Wes?


asks Finellior.


 “He
is right Fin, I am as dead as they are, but I feel better now, and there is a
place waiting for all of us now, and we have you to thank … Hey Slim, relax,
I’m coming with you!”

Ramok
speaks next:

“Father, I am sorry, that I
showed you such disrespect, but in so doing I disrespected only myself. There is
no excuse, but understand it was not me talking, but rather this place where I
had been confined, but now this land is changing because of you, and I too am
now free to return to mother. She waits for us both within the Beastlands and
through me she sends her greeting father. My hearts swells with the pride that I
am your SON, and whether you will be known as Vimak or Hagrid, you will always
be MY FATHER. Now I must go to prepare our camp in the hereafter.”
 
 


Overwhelmed Hagrid stammers out:


“Ramok … my son … No, wait
comeback with us, we have a gate!” 


“I cannot come with you, and
you CANNOT come with me father! The world needs you now more than ever, it is
not whole nor is it fair, it asks more of you than it should ask of any man,
more than I can say. You were the first, and you will be the last, you bring us
GREAT HONOR, to the Northlands, to our people, and to our family. These people
around you need you more than I. The GREAT BEAST is coming!”

Iroon
places a hand on Ramok’s shoulder, grins widely at Bingus and others bowing
deeply, and as a group, he and the others, both the Corrin brothers and Ramok
turn and jog down the spiral path fading quickly as they travel, and within
seconds they are gone. It is easy to imagine the Baron’s laugh echoing through
the valley as the weary travelers make their way to the fairy ring left by
Naiethar. When arrive at the circle of mushrooms Bingus carefully places the
acorn she provided in the center of the circle and the acorn disappears in a
small bloom of sparkles as the ring begins to glow and one-by-one as they enter
the circle the party member enter the circle and disappear.


           
The magic of the fairy ring carries them all safely back to Klarn just as
Naiethar had promised. From Klarn the party takes a short detour thank to Bingus
who quickly opens a portal to his Feywild home. Once they are there Hagrid
solemnly withdraws Naiethar’s bough and carefully plants it in the ground. It
takes root immediately, and the roots wriggle about it spreading quickly in a
circle. The bough begins growing taller and thicker; from a small sprig of tree,
then larger and larger again, until a fully grown oak takes its place, and then
from this tree emerges Naiethar in all her splendor.
   

Naiethar
says,

“Can it be, that you have succeeded? Many are the blessings I would bestow upon
thee, but the greatest of these is the freedom to return to your own lives as
you have done for me here now. I grant you all the power I have to give, all
that I have promised. May the Earthmother bless you as you have been a blessing
to me.” 


 

 


And so,
congratulations are in order, the mission is a success, and you are all now 24th
Level.