Episode 33: Convergence
At the moment Keen’s knife was drawn across his throat, Magnus found himself standing next to himself, watching as if in tableau. Next to him stood a young human-looking woman with pale white skin, long black hair, and black leathers. Taking his arm, Death took a step and Magnus found they were standing upon the sands of the Shore, the space between the Black Sea of Chaos, the realms of the living, the realms of the divine, and that which comes after.
Death revealed that Magnus’s two selfless acts (destroying the only copy of accurate research on residium and its uses and dooming himself to centuries of enslavement in the first part, and choosing suicide over being forced to grant Banu access to the residium in second part) had been noticed by “powerful parties,” and as a reward they were prepared to offer Magnus something few mortals ever get: A choice. True, everlasting peace, in whatever happens next, or he could go back to the material plane, back to his life, though with the understanding that there would be consequences for such a choice, as mortals were not meant to transgress across the boundary of life and death.
Even at that moment Yuna was casting her Revivify spell, and Magnus could feel its pull, but without much deliberation declared that his story was not yet finished, and he had to return. Death smiled and said, “Next time, Magnus, die on your feet,” and with a gleeful whoop splashed into the sea and went swimming.
Meanwhile, in the present…
While the party rested, Levani kept watch for signs of Drows, goblins, and anything else that might present itself in the Underdark. She also kept a careful eye on Stu, whom she continued to suspect was not being totally honest, or anyway not trustworthy.
What Levani did not anticipate was the reappearance of “Handsome” Henry Smalls, the Goliath ringmaster of the Spectatular Spectacular, the circus in which Keen was lately a performer. Smalls appears once before, a couple of nights passed, as Keen slept; when he awoke, the image of the ringmaster vanished. This time however Smalls seemed corporeal, and indeed attempted to kill the sleeping Keen by picking him up and slamming him into the ground.
The moment Keen lost consciousness, the image of Smalls again vanished. Levani quickly woke Yuna, who cast healing magic to save Keen. Levani was deeply troubled by this event, and told Keen to stop sleeping, and went so far as to warn Ara not to let Keen sleep either.
Keen took second watch, without incident. When Ara finished his trance, he took the final watch, and permitted Keen to go back to sleep. Keen did so, reflecting on the fact that Smalls’ appearance seemed to match a recurring nightmare he’d been having for months.
The rest of the party awoke, their rest complete, save Magnus, who seemed strangely difficult to wake up – eventually Keen had to “yell” him awake via their psychic link. When he finally did wake, he excitedly recalled details of the book of history he had burned some 400 years ago to destroy the knowledge of residium, details about a great Elven city that seems to be deeply connected to Ara. The book spoke of the Five Fists of the Akiir, powerful agents of the city’s monarch and religious leader, King Orin, who turned out to be a green dragon named Orinanthi in disguise. The Fists led a rebellion and defeated Orinanthi, but the city of El Akiir was destroyed in the process.
Magnus then declared he “needed some lab time” to write down some other things he remembered, and, picking up one of the glowing orange orbs that were used as light sources in this buried city, retreated to the alchemy lab where the goblins had been processing residium.
Meanwhile, Stu began inscribing a new series of complicated runes on the walls surrounding the residium deposit, part of a planeshift ritual that would allow him to remove the residium from the material plane and thereby keep it from the clutches of both the Drow of Thorimfell and Banu the necromancer. Levani took this opportunity to show Stu the drawing of the teleportation circle the blue-skinned tiefling with broken horns had used to evade them, after stealing the Dragonhead coin. Stu said he recognized the destination rune as that of House Mjorndottir, one of the seven merchant houses of the city of Uman.
Keen recognized the name Mjorndottir as the surname of his ex-lover and betrayer, Ginny Mjorndottir, but did not disclose this information to the party.
Ara struggled to reconcile Magnus’s revelations with the fact that Aleh Xa, the ancestor spirit residing within his staff, had declared that Stu was the Akiiri Fist of the North Wind, and demanded Ara “take his power.” Aleh Xa was unresponsive and provided no insight, and, thinking on a detail from Magnus’s memory that the Fists could identify each other by touch, held out his hand to Stu. He took Ara’s hand, whereupon both of them fell backward and lay unconscious.
Ara found himself standing in a forest glade, beneath a massive, towering oak tree; so broad were its branches that they filled the vault of the sky. In front of him he found a shadowy, smokey wraith, a vaguely humanoid creature which attacked him using the secret martial techniques of the Elves, manifesting fists and quarterstaff.
While Ara’s soul battled this creature, the rest of the party struggled to understand what was happening. Levani and Yuna attempted to bolster Ara by healing his physical body and casting endurance-raising magics on it, but were unable to tell if these efforts were in vain. As the battle continued, they could all sense via their residium binding that Ara was being gravely injured, and in an act of desparation Levani attacked Stu’s unconscious form in an effort to damage whatever Ara faced. Yuna strongly objected, pointing out that so far all they had to go on for any of this was the words of a magical talking stick, and Stu had proven himself both an ally and powerful, if eccentric.
The spirit battle raged under the swaying branches, but eventually Ara was victorious, and the roiling black smoke that enveloped his opponent spread, and thinned, before attempting to attach itself to him instead. Ara instinctively drew the creature inside himself, and found that he could reduce it, trap it, and control it. The figure of his opponent, now freed of the malevolent influence, was revealed to be Stu after all, but an adolescent Stu of perhaps no more than 30 years of age who appeared to have no memory or understanding of what had happened to him. Stu and Ara touched once more, and the vision vanished.
Ara found himself awake in his body, and was surprised to discover he now bore a tattoo on the back of his left hand, a circle of black ink inscribing a stylized gust of wind, and struggled to describe what had transpired to his companions.
Stu returned to consciousness screaming in pain as a result of Levani’s repeated magical attacks, but healed himself with a potion drawn from inside his cloak of holding. The affable Elven alchemist seemed finally to have reached his limit with the party, and invoking the planeshift ritual, departed the material plane, taking the entire residium deposit (and a goodly chunk of the building’s foundation and the ground beneath) with him.
While the party waited for Magnus to complete his work, whatever it was, they considered their next move in pursuit of the Dragonhead thief: travel to the city of Uman, and House Mjorndottir.
Martial Arts Duels: 1
Quests Completed: 3
Party Coincidence Rating: Preposterous
Death Rating: Peachy-Keen
RP Rating: Awesome!