Dead Kids and Time Travel and Demon Trees, Oh My!

Leaving the cavern Stain sparks the trail of black powder that races back ignites the volatile chemicals taken from the lab below. With a thunderous boom the mine and mountain collapses upon the ancient structure beneath – destroying the source of The Shadow Plague. After some soft spoken words Stain and Maven begin moving the worst of the infected and frenzied people into the small cabin. They offer to stay behind with them. Davos tries to give them the Spoon of Substance, but with a hard look Stain says “We won’t need that.” Suddenly Davos realizes why Cleatus is on the verge of tears and Cadmeil has been so quite. He suddenly feels must less smart and much much less powerful.

Taking the rest of the survivors Cadmeil, Davos, and Cleatus start on the 16 day trek through the wilderness to the Mad Hermit’s. Stain and Maven catch up a day and half into the journey. Neither one of them wish to talk about the burned building they left behind. The pace is slowed by the lack of horses and the need to forage while traveling but the party enjoys the respite from undead, demons, and other foul creatures.

Upon reaching the Hermit’s Jeebs crashes down to the earth from the sky above, panicking the children among the group who flee in all directions. Maven gives him a hard look, but the demon only smirks at him – the results clearly intended. The party gathers and calms the children and walk into the small cabin and the massive lab. Tobias talks excitedly about his findings, and presents Stain’s cured and healthy Slave (Robert). He provides the group the formula for the cure and sells them the primary reagent which he has prepared for them in a large sealed barrel.

Our Heroes then go on to describe to him their findings beneath the mountains and present to him the research journal, the infected survivors, and the samples of both The Shadow Plague and the original virus used to create it. Progressing to even higher levels of excitement Tobias goes to work studying them. The party gets comfortable and rests while waiting, time Davos uses to begin crafting his new spellbook with materials battered from Tobias’s stock.

When he tears himself away from the work his eyes are wide and his words carry a tone of Awe. He informs the party that indeed this “base” virus is what he had originally theorized and is clearly of ‘Ancient’ design. The Shadow Plague created by the Vampire’s is deadly beyond comprehension. He verifies with the party several times that this is the only sample to survive their adventure – should this strain infect the greater populace it has the potential to destroy every living thing on Abyrinth, possibly beyond. He then goes on to cure the infected survivors, which turns out to be difficult even for him. Stain painstakingly inspects each ensuring they are completely cured.

Once completed, Tobias is happy to usher the group out so that he can continue studying the ‘base’ virus used to create the initial plague and its final incarnation The Shadow Plague. The group, now in much higher spirits, begins the long 24 day walk to Irontown.

Arriving in Irontown our road worn group takes the time to refresh themselves and take care of a few odds and ends. Maven has his armor upgraded and purchases a new Spatha made of adamantine. Davos completes several crafting projects: A Blessed Book, a Bookplate, Upgrades his Headband of Vast Intelligence, and creates a Headband of Alluring Charisma for Maven. Cletus visits Angela’s shop and sells her the formula and the reagent to cure the current plague. Him and Davos ensure The Church of Torag, The Order of the Unseen Lovers, and Angela are set up to distribute the cure. Stain sets up an account at The Banking House of Valiant and Bold to handle Robert’s affairs, so that the slave may purchase his freedom. Cadmiel enjoys several hot bathes, a few amusing duels, and a few bottles of Vintish Red.

Once all their affairs are in order the group hunts down Arylin. Glad to see the group and happy to help she uses her enchantment boots too teleport them once more to The Seer. As usual The Seer is surprised to see the group, and surprised to be surprised. After hearing of what has transpired she sets to work on another arcane circle, feeds the group, and puts away all her powerful artifacts this time. In the morning the group once again sets themselves up around the runed circle and prepare for their next adventure.

The familiar and uncomfortable sensation of compression envelopes the party, like they are being sucked through a tube many sizes to small. And then their feet touch unfamiliar ground. Glancing around they find themselves in a busy open square, surrounded on all sides with unique elven architecture – equal parts construct and nature growth. Cadmiel slowly begins to recognize his home city of Lunal Chas’ao – although there are many differences from his memory. The landscape is much the same, the tall cliffs of Ai’authel to their backs and the open harbor in front. A silver and moonstone statue of Elistrae rises out the harbor’s mouth like a nude colossus. However, only one building is familiar to him – Aluna’s Flower. A flesh house of great renown and antiquity.

Nearby a bard, notable for his bright copper hair and brilliant green eyes, beckons to a small group of children. _"Gather around children, and listen well. Snuggie will tell you the story of The Great Love, The Heart Tree, and how The Age of Dreams began!

Long ago, when our race was young and mortal and we could not dream. But prince Yggdrasil, the son of The Earl King Leader of the Wild Hunt, changed that. Born with a unique gift, he was the first of our race to learn to dream. At night, when others of our race sat still with their minds closed, Yggdrasil slept and his spirit walked the Roads to Fey. It was there he met Andraste the White, a fey of great beauty and wisdom. And fortune smiled on our race, for they fell in love.

But when Yggdrasil confessed his love to his father The Earl King, it was forbade! ‘Your duty is to your people! This union I will not allow!’. But Yggdrasil was strong of will and would not heed his father The King. And so he locked himself in his chamber and slept. His spirit went to Andraste, and this time he stayed with her. When it was discovered Yggdrasil would not wake his father believed The Fey to blame. ‘They have stolen our prince!’ he declared ‘Take iron my people and defend our realm!’.

And so, our race full of mortal ignorance and inpatients, waged war against the fey. The rivers ran red and the soil drank deep of blood, fey and elven alike. Soon word of the truth found The Earl Kings ear. His son had not been taken, but had chosen to abandoned his duties and go to his fey lover. Enraged, The Earl King stormed into his sons room and opened his throat as his body lay still.

As you have been taught, the spirit cannot linger long without a body to find anchor. And so Yggdrasil’s spirit began to fade away. Andraste held her love tears pouring from her. She wept mind, body, and soul. So deep was her pain that when the last tear was shed all that remained were great pools of her tears containing the deep love and anguish she left.

Seeing this Yggdrasil’s spirit performed a Wild Shaping that has never been equaled sense. His spirit took the shape of a great tree, its form both of spirit and of body. Yggdrasil’s roots sank deep into the earth to drink of Andraste’s love. His branches reached out across the spirit realm of dreams. Each limb brushed against the spirit of all of his people, and through him they too were connected to Andraste.

From that day to this our race has known Andraste’s love. From our Prince Yggdrasil we are given the wisdom to walk the roads of fey, and through him are blessed with Andraste’s power of life."

Amused, Cadmiel confesses this a children’s story he had heard many times in his life – although its versions varied greatly. And then a figure rushed by. In all the vigorous celebrate he might have gone unnoticed, if he hadn’t been a near double of Cadmiel himself. With great worry plain on his face and the seal of House Dantonia on his jerkin, he stepped neatly into Aluna’s Flower. Curious, the group follows.

Inside the doppelganger headed to a back booth which bowed deeply under the strain of a massive heavyset woman. Voluptuous to extreme degrees, the several of the party recognize the tell tale signs of a half ogre mare. Sat on each leg are two barley clothed young men, each wearing a mask of desire barely hiding eyes full of uncomfortable distress. In the busy and crowded room it is easy for the party to stand unnoticed near by eavesdropping. “Ellie, I need to speak with you.” Says the look alike.

A hungry grin stretches her face. “Cadmiel! I wish you would join us.” Her grin faulters some what. “Sadly we already know you won’t.” The grin returns with great vigor and she says, “Damn shame, your son is a lover of incredible skill… I’d love to have the hat trick.”

“My son is 3!” Claims Cadmiel 2.0 with heat in his tone.

“But he gets all grown up.” She half closes her eyes and they look unfocused into the distance. A sound half way between a purr and a growl rumbles from her throat.

Cadmiel 2.0’s anger deflates and he shakes his head in mild amusment. “While I’m pleased to her of my sons… ferocity, I have come on a matter of great importance.” Cadmiel 2.0 glances at the two whores, who whisper softly into Ellie’s ears and turn to leave. Another Purr/Growl rips from her chest and she gives one a enthusiastic squeeze on his exit from the booth. Several of the heroes wince, knowing well he will be feeling that “love mark” for days.

“The Inner Sanctum is under attack I fear. The Queen’s Guard have denied me entrance – ME! The Keeper. I know enchantment magic when I see it. And if the Queen’s Guard has been taken I fear I can trust no one but you. Help me.”

Ellie sighs, pain clear on her face. “Huney, you know I cain’t help. I owe you for what you done with that whole consort affair. But you know it’s for that very reason my hands are tied. If the queen gets wind oh me even thinking about The Inner Sanctum there ain’t enough lifetimes to make her ferget. I’m sorry Cadmiel. You on your own.” And she truly looks sorry.

Lips pressed into a firm line Cadmiel nods. “Very well. Until next time Ellie.” Ellie looks at Cadmiel 2.0, sadness in her eyes, and returns the nod.

“That is the last time I see Cadmiel Dantonia the Second.” Says the incorporeal form of The Seer, startling the party.

“I thought that might be you.” Stain replies, motioning with his head towards the Ogress.

“Indeed! Strong body, although I don’t miss those hormones… Always in heat – The sex was fantastic at least” The Seer says in her normal dreamy fashion, leaving several of the party members feeling uncomfortable. “We should follow him. I now recognize the this time. This is the last day of The Age of Dreams and when the last Keeper disappears. Doubtless this will be interesting.”

The party follows Cadmiel 2.0 through the crowded streets and out of the city into the thick forest beyond. After several miles Cadmiel 2.0, noticing his shadows, slips behind some cover and pulls his thinblade. Davos, the only party member to see this, hurls a fireball at The Keeper before he can ambush the party. Realizing what’s happening, the group quickly stops Davos and bars Cadmiel 2.0 from retaliation. When asked questioned of their motives they are at a loss, until the incorporeal Seer begins advising the party.

Using phrases provided by The Seer the group explains they were sent by Ellie, gain his confidence with knowledge only she knows, and begin to follow the Elf. He explains that he knows a way into the Inner Sanctum, calling it The Deep Roads. And soon the party dips under the gnarled roots of a tall oak and are following him into the rough tunnel. After several miles of filthy travel the group emerges into a large chamber. Form mostly of Natural uncut stone, it also has several pillars and archways supporting it. On the opposite side of the room a staircase can just been seen ascending beyond sight. The roof of the cavern is a mixture of stalactites and cut stone. “This is the deepest part of The Inner Sanctum” Cadmiel 2.0 explains. He points over to a massive root in the center. It grows up out of the rough stone and then arcs over and back into the ground, forming an archway. The doorway the root forms, rather than revealing more of the cavern as expected, looks onto a an open sky and massive tree.

“This is one of Yggdrasil’s most dangerous secrets. Only 4 of Yggdrasil’s roots are known to have breached the material plane and open a direct path to fey. Before you is one. If Ellie has judged you worthy of this knowledge then I will trust in her. Betray it to no one for it posses a great danger to our race. Now come quickly, for I fear it is being abused.” And with that Cadmiel 2.0 plunges into the archway.

The party follows, one moment their steps echoing against solid stone, the next landing softly on a field of green grass. Before they stretches miles of shimmering pools of silver liquid, similar to mercury in appearance. Surrounding them are fields bright green grass and thick roots snaking in and out of the ground. Thicker and thicker the roots become as they near the epicenter of this plain where a rhythmic beating thuds so loud it is felt rather than heard. There a tree of unimaginable Majesty rests. Although standing barley taller than the average oak, its branches stretch out and out into the distance – seemly unperturbed by gravity. Each twig, limp, and branch ends in a single leaf shaped in the likeness of an elven visage. Shafts of sunlight and shadow make a patchwork of the landscape. Roots as thick as large homes rip from the earth and come together at the base of the great tree. It is here at its nexus where a trunk would adorn most trees an enormous heart armored with thick bark pounds out its steady rhythm.

Sadly for our heroes they have no time to take in the awe inspiring Majesty that surrounds them. Over several of the largest pools, those closest to The Heart Tree, red portals are transfixed in the air like horrible gaping wounds in the world. And they are spewing forth Abyssal Larva – the most basic form of demonic souls. The shimmering liquid in these pools has taken on a dark red color like that of tainted blood and it heaves and ripples as if caught by some terrible turbulence beneath the surface. Black flames lick greedily from the surface, withering the nearby plant life into black and shriveled mockeries of life.

Several demons surrounding the area turn, shocked the see the party – just as the party is to see them. To arms! Our heroes battle the creatures, although not without taking several wounds. Cadmiel 2.0 is slain. Soon after Cadmiel the Dreamer is knocked unconscious. But the group does not break. With renewed strength they push harder, and soon overtake the foul creatures. Maven quickly revives Cadmiel, who rushes over to Cadmiel the Keeper. Using the power of his Power Stone he summons The Keepers spirit back into his body, and not a moment too soon.

Returned to life and consciousness, The Keeper looks around. Horror fills his face – a horror so deep and painful to look upon several of the heroes are stunned into silence. Stumbling to his feet Cadmiel 2.0 advances on the tree with such stunned disbelieve his tongue is reduced to a monosyllabic repetition. “No, no no no No No NO NO!” he says over and over. Tears streak down his face as he climbs the thick roots of The Heart Tree to place his hand on his massive beating heart. The party sees what The Keeper sees. Thick black lines, like veins, reach up through the roots and begin strangling the large heart. Joining the Keeper, the party looks on dumbstruck.

With his head hung low The Keeper says, “It is too late. Our people are lost. This foul corruption has taken seed in Yggdrasil. It will consume him, and through him our race.” Hard heaving sobs quickly begin to take The Keeper.

Cadmiel the Dreamer places a firm hand on his shoulder, demanding his attention. “No. Our race will live on.” The Keeper looks up at Cadmeil, first with sadness in his eyes like a a man looks upon an ignorant child who has yet to learn the truths of the world. But what he finds in Cadmiel’s stare is not the wishful thinking of youth. It is full of steel – of true conviction. And that steel births within The Keeper his own.

“Yes.” Says The Keeper, setting his jaw and pulling his blade. “Join me, allies. The worst is still before us – but it must be done.” He presses his blade firmly against the enormous heart. He motions to the others to do the same. “Andraste, May your wisdom be with us in your last moments.” he whispers, and together our heroes perform the Coup De Gras of all coup de gras.

Dead Kids and Time Travel and Demon Trees, Oh My!

Echoes of the Rising JosephZ JosephZ