Killian Wardlow; a human in his mid thirties. His piercing blue eyes add colour to his face from beneath short black hair. Standing around six feet fall, and clad in studded leathers he holds an elegant staff, and has a number of tomes and scrolls almost overflowing from his satchel.
Anil Brevaden Castil Dragoon Eld; a pale man, who’s skin is slightly blue in the right lights. Adorned in a beautiful blue green cloak with runes on its hem, simple travellers garbs, and a pair or ornate silver bracers. This man stands at five and a half feet tall, and his grey eyes seem distant. Armed with a long bow over his back, and a quiver and scimitar on his left and high sides respectively.
Rick Larkin; another human, but older. This man is a stocky individual at five foot ten and looking to be in his late fifties. His skin looks weathered by years at sea, his hand rough from work, and his once dark hair clearly greying. But his eyes remain their sharp bright blue. He carries several weapons about his person, but most notable is his companion, a large black Doberman with brown fur on its chest. This dog, is Salsa.
Ulfgar Trueanvil; a stout dwarven man at a little under five feet tall. His head is shaved shorter in places to look like a choice, but in truth he is balding. He has tan skin and hands that have worked hard and with heat. Some scars, cuts and old blisters up his forearms. About his person he had a hill giants tooth, and several tools for smithing and working metal. His armour is shabby and poorly maintained, but his warhammer looks pristine, and about pommel is a steel symbol of his faith.
Fendris Umber; a man with olive skin and long white hair, pulled into a pony tail. His armour is gleaming and ornate. He too carried a warhammer, and a shield inlaid with numerous different insignia And holy symbols.
The Cataclysm of Nezhar has occurred, and the Edict fallen. The shards of Edict glass dropping from the sky, and wreaking havoc where’re they landed. Hospitals, prisons, cathedrals, homes and farms all laid to waste in the falling debris. Any form of infrastructure seems in turmoil and the whole of Menosophia is disarray. During this time, the Templars of the Anduwin sought out a group who could perform a task that the Templars couldn’t be seen doing. They told this group of a theft. Something was stolen from them that is dangerous and does not want to be found. And whilst the Templars do not say what was stole, they warn it can move, and think, and they should not mess about with it or it’s nature. The theft was tracked towards Enchantia Castle, but not heard from there after. The group of adventurers is dispatched by sea to the Peaks of the Anduwin, and from there are set to travel on foot through the woodlands towards the castle, getting to know each other a bit as they do.
The group had been traveling to Enchantia Castle for sometime, around two weeks. Their journey through the woods towards the castle was straight forward, though each day one or more of them would feel a sense of dread or nausea. This forest is Old, and rich with natural magics that challenged the five travelling adventurers. During their time in the forest, Rick and Ulfgar are beginning to get used to the nausea, but Killian reports waking some days having lost his sense of smell, and Anils usually quiet and calm demeanor shifts to quiet and crabby, and more volatile. When they were close enough, the five camped outside of the structure for a few days, before entering the castle proper to begin their investigation…
Overnight, each of the group has a dream. It’s vivid and powerful, and has been reoccurring lately, becoming stronger as they journeyed closer to the castle. The dream shows a cherry blossom tree, it’s branches and petals blowing in the wind, set against a massive expanse of white and blue void. The dream is upside down, with land being up, and the dream seeming to grow downwards. Each dreamer feels a pull in their minds as they are desperate to reach this tree, stretching, reaching, clawing their way closer with such effort and struggle, but it is never enough. The dream ends and this time the voice is clear whispering “You will find me in the grove”.
The five have been living in the castle for some time now. Though each is unsure if it has been a few days, a week may be? Or perhaps a few weeks? Anyone who tries to remember exactly how long find they are unable to recall. This morning, Killian and Ulfgar think on this question, and with assistance from some of their magical items are able to surmise they have been at the castle for over a month. Though to Anil and Rick, it feels like just a few days. When they think of how time has been spent to justify staying for so long, Killian can only think the group has been helping out with various chores about the castle, and done a few hours investigating each day.
Having woken from the same dream, Fendris finds the other four, and Rick brings Salsa outside of the castle. Leading them into the woods for a short walk to their previous campsite. He urges them to consider that the sight looks to have been abandoned sometime ago, and not a few days as Rick and Anil believe. The fire pit is cold, with fresh vegetation having already fallen over the top of it. Seeing this, the whole group begins to realise they have been at the castle for longer than they thought, but still remain unsure how long. Realising this, the group sets about to resume their mission, and investigation to find the thief and the stole item. They take a last sobering look at the old campsite and head back to the castle grounds.
About the building are a number of people who seem settled. Some visitors, some described as staff of the castle. Rick looks at the tracks that the group are leaving, with Anil assisting, and can see enough evidence to suggest that the group have had this walk to the campsite a number of times, perhaps as many as five before today, but no one can remember this. Ulfgar takes out parchment and quill and writes down his objective, before stuffing the paper into his armour. Satisfied that this will remind him and prevent forgetting, he puts his hands into pockets and pulls out another scrambled sheet of parchment, in his handwriting and with his mission objective on it. The dwarf then writes find the thief and the item on four more pieces of parchment and distributes them to the other members of the group, slightly surprised by having already done this and not remember doing it.
As the five approach the castle’s main steps, a custodian named Scruffy calls them up, and informs the group that the Curator wants to see them. Ulfgar agrees to follow Scruffy, and so eventually the rest do too. They attend an office near to the front of the building on the west side, and are lead through a set of double doors into a large library or study. Before the group, float over a ten foot hole in the floor filled with books is a large spherical being with a massive central eye on its body, magnified by the single monocle being worn. It also had numerous eye stalks snaking like medusa hair, each stalk reading a different open book in the pile. Rick sends Salsa to sniff out the party’s scent to see where they have been before, and the dog begins its own search whilst the rest enter the room, and speak with the floating being. This is the Curator. He seems confused, but tells he was born at the castle, and in his speech he often says phrases like, “as I think I told you last time, or before”. Hearing this Killian recalls that the group have indeed spoke to this being before. Killian recalls the Curator merely collects antiques and is generally harmless. Though it does appear that he too is suffer from some form of memory loss. Salsa returns to Rick and conveys what he smelt. The groups scent in the east of the castle. Rick makes note to follow up on this.
The Curator puts down on books and addresses the group directly, “No more luck on why you are here then?”
Ulfgar replies, “We’re tracking a thief, or looking for one at least. Have you seen any unusual characters Curator?”
“Unusual? No. Oh, yes. There have been some strange deliveries lately. I collect curios so odd deliveries are too odd, but this seemed, well, odd. You should speak to the Administrator. His office is across the hall.”
The Curator believes that the memory loss over the castle is due to the Edict falling, and the castle being temporal in nature already. When the party doesn’t respond to this, he continues his explanation that Enchantia Castle has an odd history of just appearing on this site one day, fully constructed, as though it had come from another place of existence entirely. It brought all of the ramparts and above ground structures, as well as the crypt which has an intensely magical nature. Those who go down to the crypts soon find the magic too much, as it rends their minds apart. Shortly after it arrived, the original inhabitants all died and the castle was taken over, and it has been this way ever since. Though since the Edict fell, the veil between realms seems to have been weakened.
Once the Curator has finished speaking, he returns to several of his books, and Rick takes notices of who else is in the room. A woman carrying books and a man dressed as a sailor going over scrolls. He his scratching his head and appears to do this often as there is a bald patch near to where he is scratching his frustration. Rick and Salsa head over to the the sailor. Even from a few feet away, it looks and sounds like this man is try to plot a route off the island, though Rick notices the sailor isn’t using a map, but that the large scroll is covered with writings and isn’t a map at all. This scrolls talks about challenges of the mind and the power of a group, working as one, as a means to succeed, and that without being unified there is rarely a chance of success. Rick tells the sailor that this scroll it’s not a map, and then, upset, the sailor turns to leave, back to his quarters for a rest and to gather his whits. Rick asks the mans name and learns he is captain Stanley, who used to do supply runs from the Ozmit to the city of Dale, here on this island, though most recently his ship carried a lot of unusual stones to deliver here. They had a number of special markings on the stones, but Stanley is starting to not make sense. Rick offers to help him if he can. Captain Stanley takes his leave and Rick recalls the Stanley’s ship went missing a decade or so ago.
Meanwhile, Killian begins to search the room for information and lore about what could be affecting the party, and their minds. His keen eye and talent for research helping him pin point where the right scrolls, maps and documents would be filed. Whilst looking through the various papers in one corner, Killian discovers one particular scroll which holds a brief account of the castle’s most early and original inhabitants. They are described to be strange and alien individuals with blue crystalline skin. A people who sung more than they spoke, and who seemed to communicate through this mental song. Most of these original inhabitants died within a few weeks of the castle appearing on the island, a few lasted a bit longer. The papers went on to talk about how there is a crypt beneath the castle and The Door. As the mage reads the papers there are more and more mentions of The Door down to the crypts which was never found. Many searched but were put off by the high levels of alien and powerful magic that filled the entire castle. Over an epok, the sheer volume of magic reduced, as it slowly sunk lower and into the ground itself. The last note that Killian feels is significant is the one that highlights the castles first investigators describe similar symptoms of nausea and forgetfulness to those being felt by the party.
Confident in Killian’s research and reading, Ulfgar asks the Curator about the grounds of the castle, if if there is a Blossoming tree anywhere nearby. The floating Curator appears caught off guard by this sudden question, and all of its eyes widen, before the eyestalks return to reading and a sense of composure returns to the being. The Curator replies to Ulfgar that each night he has a dream of this tree and doesn’t know what it means, other than it strongly calling him towards it. The Curator feels that Ulfgar must have taken this information from his mind, as his dreams are private, but Ulfgar replies he too is having this dream. Fendris joins the conversation that he has seen the tree in his dreams too. Anil remains quiet whilst Killian and Rick are still speaking to other library patrons or doing their own research. Reassured that Ulfgar did not read the Curator’s mind, the being tells that there is no such tree on the ground and at the mention of the Grove, that the castle is surrounded by woodlands, and so this would be harder to find. Still curious about the significance of his dream, now more than ever, knowing others have had this dream, Ulfgar asked Killian if there is mention of the tree in any papers he has been reading. Whilst there is no mention of a tree, there is mention of a number of tests of challenges which must be faced and that the papers seem to also strongly talk about going forth as one, together, as well as how it could be to their detriment if the did not go forth united.
Rick, finished with the captain, moves to assist the woman who is carrying several books. Introductions are made as the librarian calls herself Gillian. She is picking up and tidying up after the Curator, as his eyestalks often knock over stacks of collected works with what she describes as thoughtful tentacles. Rick offers to assist her in this whilst they talk. She shares she keeps some records of the various comings and goings of people at the castle in a ledger, and shares this with Rick when he asks. There are blocks of text which he thinks may be names of individuals, but in a language Rick doesn’t speak or read. She tells him she is trying to teach herself an exotic language as he seems surprised. Rick does notice that the blocks of text appear to generally repeat and surmises that there aren’t too many people detailed here, but that they may be recorded multiple times to reflect comings and goings. She list the party’s names, The Curator, The Administrator, Brother Maynard, Mr Grayling, and Captain Stanley. She thanks Rick for his assistance and he rejoins the group, confirming that there aren’t many people at the castle.
The party then cross the corridor to enter the Administrator’s office. The Administrator is sat behind a desk, writing. This man is dressed simply but with a feathered cap and robes of various shades of green. He looks up from his papers and greets the party warmly.
“Good to see you again” he says. He continues to talk about enjoying their last conversation about recent freight activity to the castle, and how none of the party had attended an appointment to get more information. He then offers each of the party a drink to help clear their minds. This is a red coloured fluid in clear crystal goblets. Suspicious, the party in various ways try to ascertain his genuineness from his speech and body language. Taking more notice of this, they are then able to fully perceive the room, including the smell of slightly off raw fish under a cloth. All except Killian, who still cannot smell anything. Unable to smell the fish, the wizard thinks about his arcane training and presumes there is a stimulant property to this drink, though what it is he is unsure. Rick and Ulfgar ask about the fish smell, to which the Administrator replies he had heard of raw fish being a delicacy and so wanted to try it. He clears the fish from his desk, and in doing so reveals the name plate before him as Administrator Stenton, before smiling wickedly at the party. Rick turns his back to Stenton and casts Detect Poison and Disease. His spell takes hold, but as it does there is a wild magical surge where Rick feels his own magic try to warp and change his form, but knowing his own magic, Rick is able to resist this secondary unexpected spell. He focuses his magics and attention on the red drinks and learns it has cocaine stirred into the liquid and so advises against others from drinking from the goblets either. Stenton urges that this drink really will take the edge off, but the party declines. They ask him about what it is they are looking for, and are told that is is on the castle grounds, but it is in a place that is difficult to reach. Stenton then offers his help, as he deliberately made himself prominent here as strange things are afoot. He adds that the sooner the party finds what they are looking for, the sooner he can leave. He mentions that there will be a Trial of Will, and that if it is failed, each challenger much restart and go round again, and again, and again. This is perhaps why they have been in some places multiple times already. Ulfgar asks Stenton about the bosom tree, but Stenton doesn’t add any knowledge, other than the castle is surrounded by trees, and that if Ulfgar is looking for a specific one, then the dwarf had better start looking. Stenton offers one final piece of advise that the party would best starting with a drink. They all look to the refused spiked red drinks, but he then corrects himself and suggests a stiff drink, gesturing with his head to the right, and the room that Salsa sniffed out earlier. The party each make to leave the room, and Anil is last out. Stenton grabs Anil and whispers that for him to succeed, the others must fail. Anil grunts, nods and leaves, catching up with Rick.
In the corridor on the way to the tavern within the castle, Anil speaks in hard gasping tones to Rick, pressing down on a scar over his throat to allow the air to move through his voice box. He ask how many times the party has been to the tavern. Rick tells him at least five times, and they consider what will be different this time, if they are to succeed. Killian and Ulfgar have a similar conversation just ahead as they enter into the tavern, and Killian’s arcane senses drawn him to something of interest in this tavern.
In the tavern are three individuals. A girl at the bar mopping down the wood, a man carrying barrels to another room, and a man wearing robes, very drunk on a table by himself. The drunken man is loudly shouting about Retribution and that the Edict falling is a sign of things coming and the end. Killian and Ulfgar work out that this is Brother Maynard, who introduces himself as a former brother at the Temple of Y’Shai. Rick speaks to the girl at the bar, and Killian leaves Ulfgar with Maynard whilst he and Salsa look for the “something of interest”. The dog begins scratching at a chest of draws in the north eastern corner of the tavern, and within the draw is a single bag. Killian takes this and inside sees five stones roughly the size of marbles, and an ankh. As he takes these out, the girl at the bar, Wendy, tells Killian that the party had left these items in the bar the last time they were here. He looks into the bag and to the stones and sees each of them shimmer with a faint defensive rune. Killian shares his findings with the others, and offers to inspect them magically to learn what they are. Rick then warns Killian and the rest of the group against casting magic, due to the wild magical effect that he experienced just moments ago. At this Ulfgar goads Killain to do the spell, and Killian rises to this stating he is a wizard and so is not afraid of wild magic, he is the only one who feels confident to control his magic. He takes the back and leaves the castle to being a ritual to identify these items in the grounds, and away from other people who appear to be wary of the wild and unpredictable chaos of magic in this place. He sets up his ritual circle and chooses to look at the Stones first.
Back in the tavern, Rick’s spell of detect poison and disease senses all of the alcohol, but in one back room he also sense a faint glimmer of decomposition and the diseases that brings. He turns his attention to it and notices the barrel moving man make steps to be nearer that door. Ulfgar begins to speak to Brother Maynard who takes a 1gold piece bribe without hesitation, offering to do anything Uflgar wanted, including killing children, declaring he has no code of ethics. Ulfgar asks Maynard about the delivery and what the goods were. He talks about there being lots of crates and one was large. Too large and wouldn’t fit in the back rooms, so took it elsewhere, although he can’t remember where this was. He thinks this could have been a few weeks ago, but his memory is foggy. Ulfgar runs to the Administrators office and picks one of the red cocaine laced drinks and brings it back hoping it will help clear Maynard’s addled mind, as the dwarf puts the drink down before Maynard, Rick’s eyes widen and he deftly swaps out the drink for a simple healing potion from his pack, which is the same colour. Maynard drinks this, not knowing what it is, and in an instant, his sense begin to return to him. His mind clears and embarrassment sets in. He stands, sober and apologises and takes his leave. Rick tells Ulfgar, Fendris and Anil of the rot behind a now guarded door. The barrel carrier is standing squarely against the door looking into the tavern. Anil approaches and throws a punch, direct hit with the barrel, wood splinters. Before he is withdrawing his right hand, his left punches again, and the wood bends slightly more. He turns and brings his food into the action and kicks clean through the barrel and into the man knocking him into the door and then to his knees, as Anil draws the man’s ki through the kick and leaves him stunned. Rick turns after the flurry of movement and calms down the fight, leading the man, whose name is Paul, to a chair to rest, as Wendy the bar maid jumps back, as none of these people are really fighters. Paul tells Rick he was paid to not let anyone into the back room, and isn’t sure himself what is back there, Now that the door is clear, Ulfgar and Anil enter the back room.
Meanwhile, outside, Killian completes his ritual casting to identify the stones, learning that they are each identical and bare an abjuration rune which protects. If a person were to pass over the veil into death, this stone would shatter and the person would be protected from death in a way. When Killian learns this information the chaotic magic of the castle surges around him, and a dwarf nearby begins to feel more nauseous, and starts to vomit up magically induced poison. Content with what he has learn, he begins to redraw his ritual and focus his identifying magics on the ankh.
Back in the tavern, Ulfgar and Anil see that the once guarded room has broken chairs and tables pushed to one side revealing a sizeable hole in the floor dropping down into darkness. From within the darkness comes a powerful stench of death. There is a winch and fully system set up and hanging on one wall, too. Ulfgar looks down the hole and sees there is a thirty foot drop into dark wet mud. Hearing this, Anil steps out over the hole and allows himself to fall, twisting and catching the updraft in his cloak to slow his fall, landing silently, and without injury. Ulfgar is surprised and so takes a moment before shouting out to Rick what Anil has done, and then begins to make his own tethers to lower himself down and joint Anil in the dark. Fendris uses the existing winch and also descends into the darkness.
Within the tavern proper, Rick learns from Paul and Wendy that the most recent delivery was from a religious sect from the Ozmit. They wore hoods and robes of red, a single black strip down the centre and golden pendants. They paid Paul and Wendy well to keep other people out of this room, and to not ask any more questions. But Wendy does recall that these religious figures brought in a large box that seemed to radiate coldness and a sense of fear and dread. Rick then asks if any other individuals have been snooping around or investigating other than the party, but all Paul can think of is the religious figures, who he thinks are a cult. Paul and Wendy then lock up the tavern and leave.
In the hole, Anil slowly draws his scimitar across his chest cutting himself and letting blood flow into the blade. As it does, a radiant energy lights up the blade with the intensity of Dawn itself. Fendris looks over at Anil disapprovingly of this specific type of magical ability.
Outside of the castle, Killian’s second ritual completes and he discerns from it that the ankh holds a fragment of invulnerability. If a person were to be holding this, then once a day they could use its magic to become fully immune to all magical effects for a brief moment. He is pleased with his magical discoveries and as he smiles to himself there is another wild magical surge localised around his throat. He thinks nothing of it and moves to join Rick in the tavern. As he greets the older man, Killian realises that he can only speak by shouting. He shouts explanations of what the items do, and lets Rick tell him what he has learned about the crypt and where the other three have gone. Killian is wary of going into the crypt after having read the research papers and warnings, but Rick is concerned about the other warnings of being united and doing things together. Rick asks Salsa to sniff the back room with the hole, as neither Rick nor Killian have been in that room, as far as they recall. When Salsa returns Rick understands from his dog that they have infant both already been there, as their scent is present. Eventually they agree to join the others in the muddy hole.
Whilst waiting, Anil explores a short bit, and Ulfgar, having seen some magic from Anil, thinks it is safe to cast spells without chaotic magical effects. He spells himself with a protection from cold, having learnt the box was very cold and scary. When his spell takes effect the air near to him shimmers with a bright rainbow glow. When the glow fades, a unicorn stands in the spot next to Ulfgar and Anil. This startles Anil who swings his lit blade at the celestial creature, cutting its haunches slightly, and sending the equine beast fleeing away. It runs into a stone floored corridor but on the floor, it begins to sink, pulled down heavily into the stone that behaves like liquid. Frightened the unicorn teleports away as Rick, Salsa and Killian make it into the hole.
Ahead of the party just before the liquid stone floor is the body of a lizard man. His weapon by his side, and his eyes seemingly exploded. It looks like he died by exposure to a massive amount of ancient energy that caused his body to swell and then burst. Just out of his reach, is a lit torch resting gently and unmoving on the liquid stone floor. Ulfgar is unfamiliar with this kind of stone, even his dwarves nature cannot help him to identify it. He places a foot onto the stone and the floor responds as though stepping onto a pond. His foot sinks slightly, but the torch remains where it is, and that stone, remains solid. Killian considers is the floor is real or an illusion, but again is unsure, and whistle Killian ponders this, Rick wanders through his own memories of things he has seen on Menosophia that behave like this. Both the mage and the ranger come up short for answer. Anil ties a length of rope around his waist, and hands the other end to Ulfgar before taking a deep breath, and stepping into the unknown. As this happens, Killian distributes the abjuration stones to Fendris and Rick, and even considers giving one to Salsa, but doesn’t.
In the liquid stone, Anil’s weight is double, and he is rapidly pulled downwards in a lightless space that his scimitar does not illuminate. He keeps his breath held but sense that otherwise he would not be able to breathe in this place. Not expecting Anil’s behaviour, Ulfgar is pulled in and his weight dwarves mass is also doubled as the cleric speeds up downwards towards Anil. Sinking into a black void. The cleric reaches to his sigil and tries to call the might of his deity for aid, but something about this place prevents which ever god he holds dear from reaching him. The dwarf then tries to pull the rope to reach Anil quicker. Whilst Anil tried experimenting if he is able to swim in different directions in this liquid stone void. He learns quickly he cannot, and so waits for Ulfgar to reach him. When the pair are reunited, Anil positions himself onto of Ulfgar, riding the dwarf’s back before imbuing the cleric with the elemental power of levitation, which brings both Anil and Ulfgar out of the liquid stone, and hovers them five feet above the ground.
When the pair are stable hovering, Anil unties his waist rope, before fixing it to an arrow and firing into the darkness southward, and then repeating the shot northward. Fendris fixes the arrow rope with pitons on the “shore” where he, Rick and Killian remain with Salsa. Ulfgar joined the ropes and uses them as a means to pull himself and Anil along the liquid stone floor without falling in again. The manoeuvre a short way and the dwarf touches on of the stones embedded into the liquid. This stone is icy cold to his fingers, but his protective magic holds against it. Reaching the end of the line, and a place where there is dry, none-liquid stone land to the east and west, Anil leaps from Ulfgar, somersaulting to the west, landing silently again. Ulfgar then uses his momentum and the rope to propel himself to follow Anil and lands safely in a safe passageway. As the dwarf lands, a well decorated tribal lizard man steps out of the shadows. He appears adorned in chiefly garbs and is armed with a trident. He threatens Ulfgar with being selfish. Both Ulfgar and Anil glided past the bodies of fallen lizard men, and did not think to bring their bodies’ home for proper traditional rites. Ulfgar says he leaves judgement such as that to the higher gods, and that the lizard man’s gods meant nothing to him. As the words leave his lips, Ulfgar is struck with a profound sense of pain which brings him to his knees. His mind flashes back to the Cherry Blossom briefly before his vision is his own again.
On the sore, Fendris begins to lighten himself, removing all but the most essential of his armour, preparing to climb the rope and shimmy his way across. Rick then collects the armour, and gives it to Salsa who vanishes from his side, and reappears near Anil, waiting to return Fendris’ armour. Fendris readies himself to begin his crossing, and Killian moves to attempt to dispel the magical effect on the liquid stone. He weaves his magic and lets it loose through his staff against the stone which moves like a wave, absorbing the magic but not seemingly to react. Then, the whole liquid stone area begins to rumble and melt away, dripping downwards. A bright flash of light fills the underground chamber and when the light fades, the floor remains, and is beginning to ignite into larva. Fendris lets go of the rope, not fancying his chances now that it is larva to shimmy across. The lizard men corpses that were on the liquid stone begins to melt away also, and then float into the air, and their melting turns into cherry blossoms until their bodies are fully gone.
Ulfgar has offended the lizard man chief, and now that the bodies are gone, there is no chance to redeem them or him. Not wanting to deal with this retribution currently, the dwarf takes hold of both sides of the stone doorway and bends the earth to his will, magically sealing the lizard man in a stone room with no obvious exit. As he does this, a familiar chaotic magic surges through and around him, as he begins to move faster, teleporting, as skill he hasn’t had before. The dwarf levitates and teleports between Salsa and Anil’s shore to Fendris, Rick and Killians, and one by one ferries them across floating and teleporting in equal measure. Until only Killian is left. The mage is wary of advancing as his main drive is self preservation and his own magic cant seem to be trusted down here. The mage turns to leave, and as he does, his mind is filled with thoughts of being selfish and saving his own skin, and the thoughts and visions cause him considerable mental pain, then a vision of blossoms. Killian falls to his knees and the dwarf goes to grab him, pleading them to work together like the papers had encouraged. Killian doesn’t want to be closer as he is worried getting closer is what is causing this pain, and so retreats further, trying to save himself and worried about the effect of this mind magic. Another mental attack occurs and brings Killian to his knees again. Ulfgar takes advantage of the opportunity and ensorcels Killian with magic to hold him in place, but the mage is no novice of spell craft and is able to reflect the spell back at the cleric, so shrugs off the effects of his divine spell, though the reflection was unexpected. As he reflects on his success on resisting the magic, his beard begin to itch as from his dwarves chin a secondary beard growth, though this is formed of long exotic coloured feathers. Killian feels his magic become wild at reflecting and rebounding a spell, and also is filled with a sense of knowing how to teleport, and uses this to vanish and reappear closer to the hole and trying to climb out of the crypt layer. As he reappears his hands clutch his temples in pain, and the mage collapses, unmoving, and seemingly not breathing. His body vanishes as a faint stone glimmers and turns to dust. Ulfgar makes his way back to the rest of the party, without Killian, telling them that the mage made his choice. Rick mutters to himself that he is worried the party aren’t sticking together and so are doomed to do this trial a seventh time, if they even live that long.
In the corridor of low light beyond the liquid stone floor there is a purple glow pulsing. Fendris lifts his shield and marches onwards as a solider intent on his mission and purpose. The others follow, and at the end of the corridor some to a large chamber with a massive purple crystal at its centre. Around the crystal are eight braiziers at equally spaced intervals. Just before stepping into the chamber, Ulfgar notices a faint shimmering across the threshold, which ripples and then goes clear once more. It seems to be some sort of ward over the doorway to this chamber. He asks everyone else to step back a bit, and moves to try to dispel the ward. His magic takes effect and the ward shatters like magical ward suddenly turned into a solid silver mirror. As it breaks a jolt of aggressive energy fires through each of the party, including Salsa, wracking their minds with psychic pain to reflect the selfish actions of Ulfgar against the lizardman, and of Killian abandoning the group. Ulgfar remains standing and turns to his companions to say “piece of cake” but as he tries to speak, only pink bubbles froth from his mouth; the effects of another chaotic magical surge. Rick sets out his healers kit and begins to sent to his and Salsa’s wounds.
Each other party begins to stand up from the jolt of aggressive psychic energy and as they do Ulfgar steps into the chamber proper. There are the eight light fire pits, the centre massive purple crystal and two other doorways. One to the north, and on leading south. As he stands in the chamber, the crystal speaks into Ulfgar’s mind.
“Welcome challengers of Will. North or South? One yields truth the other failure. You must answer me a question. Which people build these halls?”
Ulfgar cannot speak immediately due to the bubbles, but as they begins to clear, he coughs, clears his through and not knowing the actual answer tries to outsmart the crystal, answering that the Halls weren’t built by dwarves. The crystal pulses again and Ulfgar clutches his head, hearing the crystal say to him, “you are wrong, and have a feeblemind”. With that the cleric drops his hands slackly, and seems to be only able to communicate in grunts and animalistic manners. All evidence of former intelligence or force of will are gone, leaving Ulfgar a shadow of his former self.
Witnessing this, Fendris become frustrated and charges, and guess a direction, choosing south at random. Anil, and Salsa follow, whilst Rick helps Ulfgar to continue onwards as well. The part advance, charging wilfully forward and eventually find themselves in the final chamber of the crypt. Before them are four figures positioned equally around another large crystal. Inside the crystal is the silhouette of a humanoid figure. The figures appear to be engaged in some form of ritual around the crystal. By the looks of the ritual, the four people appear to be trying to open it. Behind the crystal is a visible tear in reality. A rip across space and time. To the side of the chamber are several cages, and within one of these is Killian’s body.
Fendris runs in and screams, “What the hell are you doing!?” His rage palpable. His body begins to ripple upwards in steam, as his skin begins to slide away, melting up and down and off of him. Underneath his olive skin is that of a pale older man. His eyes blazing with righteous fury. Rick immediately recognises this man as Commander Wickstrum of the Templar Order.
As Wickstrum shouts trying to interrupt the ritual, some of the cultists call out “Protect her” whilst others continue with the ritual with a more harried pace. Rick rolls and moves into shadow, unseen and advances on Wickstrum and before he is spotted, his dagger is at the commander’s throat, and cutting across it, with Salsa teleporting in and biting the Templar at the same time. A significant hit to his defences. Wickstrum demands to know who gave them the right to steal this item and do what heretical acts they are performing. The lead cultist steps forwards and says “He did” pointing behind the crystal towards the reality tear. And from the tear, the Celestial Animal form of a Jackal steps forth. An Avatar of Paz in the crypt.
Wickstrum is incensed and rushed towards the crystal. Both Rick and Salsa try to hit him to prevent this, but they both miss. As the revealed Templar reaches one cultist he raises his hammer and ignites it with radiant power before smashing it again and again into her fragile robed form. After a a few strikes, the woman is breathing no more.
Rick moves to the shadows once again and strikes Wickstrum from his hidden spot, whilst Salsa again runs to bite him, and then teleports out of danger, barking at the celestial jackal form of Paz. Wickstrum takes out a dark stone and mutters “Nezhar give me power” and lets the stone crumble away. In the centre of the room, away from the crystal a dark pool forms, and from this jet ooze a huge alien worm uncoils. A Netherworm, thrashing about violently. Unsure what to do, as Rick has turned on Fendris, now Wickstrum, Anil swings his open palm at Ulfgar, but misses before he runs and moves closer to the crystal, not getting to close as the worm stands between him and the crystal. Three remaining cultists take strikes against Wickstrum in retaliation for their fallen brethren but are unable to breath through his armour. Wickstrum knocks the cultists away and makes a powerful strike against Rick, and as he does so Killian wakes, healed and confused by what he sees. The mage has once again lost a portion of his memory and so cannot tell who Rick is fighting. He teleports from the cell in a swirl of light silver mist, and once free is able to look through the reality tear. On the other side is a blue expanse and the blossom tree that everyone keeps dreaming of. Before him inside the crystal the humanoid is a woman, with blue skin. As Killian comes to himself, he realises that his own magic seems empowered by the latest wild magical surge. Feeling confident he casts an unlocking Knock spell on the crystal. His magic creates a sonic boom as the crystal ruptures, shattering into thousands of shards. Salsa begins retching as magically induced poison enters the dog’s body; an after effect of more wild magic. As the dust settled from shards of crystal exploding the blue skinned woman is on the floor, dazed form being released so aggressively, rather than through a proper ritual.
The tear in reality begins to shake and wan erratically. Barely visible tendrils of power snake from the space time doorway to wrap around each of the creatures in the chamber. Only the worm, Rick and Salsa are able to shake off these tendrils from pulling them through. The blue woman is running through, and dives across the portal, and seeing this, the three cultists also rush after her willingly. Enraged, Wickstrum cries Heresy and dives after them all. Rick, rushes to intercept Wickstrum and strikes deftly, but in doing so, gives up his chance to resist the tendrils’ pull.
Beyond the portal in the Blue endless expanse is the Cherry Blossom Tree. It is still upside down, but then those present realise that it isn’t, and that it is spinning and righting itself, and is only upside down due to a perspective issue. Anil stows his scimitar being out of range and floating, and takes aim with his longbow, keeping Wickstrum in his sights. The first arrow sails wide, Anil not used to this strange gravity shift. He fires again, and barely misses as the shot would have ruffles hair, is there was wind here. The dwarf, still feral avoids people he doesn’t know, including Anil who recently tried to attack him, but sees his ally, Rick, in trouble. He wills himself across the blue expanse towards Wickstrum and swings his warhammer, but the blunt weapon connects with only armour, harmlessly glancing to the side. Wickstrum ignores all of these attacks and pursues the blue skinned woman with zealotry in his eyes. He draws a long thin blade, that looks like black tempered glass. Even holding it seems to cause Wickstrum pain, as he lances his blade forward piercing her, but not deeply. Rick is still intent on bringing this mad Templar down, and so moves to flank Wickstrum and delivers a critical slice with his magical dagger, finishing the cut across the Templar’s throat. Wickstrum falls unconscious, and the stone Killian had given him begins to glow. Rick grabs the stone, and throws it into the void, before spiking his dagger into Wickstrum’s skull, embedding it there, preventing resurrection.
The threat defeated, the next few event seem to happen almost at the same time. Killian moves to collect a floating crystal remain, and then teleports through the portal back to the crypt. The blue skinned woman reaches the blossom tree which pulses at her arrival, and the cultists and others float closer to the tree. As the tree pulses it speaks, “Welcome back my child. All hail the Exalted”
The cultists call out, “Her name is Sophia”, as the blue skinned woman, Sophia begins to vanish having spoken to the tree. Though her presence remains. The tree then speaks individually into the minds of Rick, Ulfgar and Anil and asks of each of them, “would you like to stay?” and in that moment, Ulfgar’s mind is restored.
Rick asks about the intentions for Menosophia now. He is told by the tree that great change is coming, and that many resources are too exhausted to stop this, but that the tree, Sophia, can help. Rick senses this is honesty and without malice, so relies that the Shale Forest would be agreeable in this aid, but that Rick himself would like to enjoy his retirement and asks to be sent home. The Tree shares that the Anduwin have chosen their Champions now and all the pieces are moving into place. Rick should seek out these champions and help them if he can. Help them to find the twins, as they hold the key to bringing everyone home. With that, Ricks form shimmers as he and Salsa are sent home.
Ulfgar asks what it is that he could do in a place like this? The tree answers that his role would be to serve the great undoing of the Greatest Mistake. Ulfgar ponders but answers honestly, that his place is with his feet on the ground, and with a forge by his side. Trueanvil’s work best in this way. His form also shimmers as he is transported home to his family’s ancient forge.
Anil asks holds out a small wooden wand and sets it to float its own way towards the tree before pledging the allegiance of his people. He asks only if this is this the real world?
The reply this time is that everyone, even the great Lesoto have a part to play in what comes next. The Tree answers also that there are many “real” worlds, before listing Druidia, Sol and Menosophia. Anil is unsure if any of these can be real, if there are so many. Sophia offers to show Anil the worlds to let him chose. He already knows Menosophia, and she say the tree and blue expanse are a part of Druidia, so she shows him Sol. A rock of desolation, devoid of all life having undergone complete destruction. Nothing but death exists her. The pair return to the tree and she asks if any of these places are real enough. Anil draws his scimitar across his chest a few times to see if his cuts feel more real here, and in doing that realises that he has never felt so real, awake or alive. He floats closer to the tree touching it and merging, accepting this is the real world.
Back in the crypt, Killian is almost alone. The worm has vanished and only the celestial jackal remains. He speaks to the jackal and asks if the magic that effected this place can be studies or learnt. The jackal paws towards the tear and then looks away, Killian is uncertain what he should do next or what the future holds for him. The jackal looks at the mage and pounces through him. When the pounce is over Killian is no longer in the crypt but on the shores of a beach. Golden white sands, and clear blue ocean lapping the shores. Paz’s avatar steps past Killian, walking on the water, where Killian is in the ocean, treading water to reach the shore. The jackal keeps walking and fade from existence leading the mage closer to the beach. After a time, Killian is close enough and an elven man helps him from the ocean, introducing himself as Liu Bei.