East of Winter

Of Fire and Faith
2 Full Spring 1470
I returned alone to Cradle, my heart heavy. How can it be so painful to make the choices you know you must make? Oh, Bright Lord, by my faith in you, please… just bring them home safe and successful. 

The days crawled by, every moment a small eternity, and after a week of it, I felt half-mad. 

To distract myself, I decided to visit the City of Brass, intent on returning an heirloom we had discovered in Cathinair’s lair, an ornate ring, rubies smoldering with reflected flame, which had once belonged to the noble efreet family Zinlara.

Umbriel and Tarhuun agreed to accompany me to the City, and we headed for the teleportation circle outside of Cradle. The Remidonian soldiers who have encamped there seem to have settled in, and now have an orderly system in place controlling the access to the circle. They record the passage of all those using the circle, and their destination. 

(the man who records this is, for no reason apparent to me, chained to the book. I disliked it intensely, but was convinced not to act immediately by my companions. I will look into this further on my own. If the Remidonian army is supporting unwilling servitude…) 

In any case, we made no secret of our destination, and let them know we intended to travel to the Plane of Fire. They made no objection to this, though several of the soldiers who overheard approached us before we left, wanting to ask us about being adventurers. 

I relayed some small measure of the glories and perils associated with adventuring, which seemed to encourage them, and so I told them to reach out if they wanted to talk in more detail later. No point in letting them wander off unprepared. Perhaps I ought to make a guidebook, though really that’s Yera’s department, if she ever has a spare moment. When I see her again.
 
The transit to the City was smooth, though there’s no avoiding a certain amount of disorientation with planar travel. As always, the heat made itself known first, inescapable and heavy, and then the exotic mixture of smells that made up the City- smoke and incense and oil. And faintest brimstone. 

I felt the tension relax from muscles I didn’t even realize I was capable of tensing. There’s something about this place, for all its oddities, that I really enjoy. Oh, certainly, some of it is to do with the fire, but…it’s also the things I don’t see- the sideways glances. The immediate suspicion. A tiefling, here…just another passer-by. It’s refreshing.
 
As usual, we were greeted politely by the circle guards, and ushered quickly out of the arrival complex onto the streets of the City. The three of us emerged, blinking, into the light of the Plane of Fire in early afternoon, the skies a slowly darkening orange, and headed toward Umbriel’s favorite inn, the Platinum Emporium, to set up a temporary base in the city. 

I really must find someplace less…salacious to stay, if I’m going to be here on any sort of regular basis. Duke Norway is already upset about my reputation (though for Rhollor’s sake, does he really believe I’d do any of that?), I can’t give him any additional excuses, even if I never have participated in the worst of it. 

As we made our way to the Azer quarter, we passed a couple of the city’s efreeti archer-guard, who had watched us defeat Cathinair, and paused to speak to them, suspecting that they might be able to advise us on the appropriate next steps. 

The archers remembered us as well, and greeted us as friendly acquaintances. We told them of our quest, and asked if they could suggest who we might approach to secure an introduction to the House Zinlara. Their battalion- the Angels of Death- being an especially honored one, they told us their very own Captain might be able to help us. We asked a few questions about the Captain’s tastes (it would be terribly rude to arrive without a gift), and arranged to meet our friends, and their commander, later that evening.  

The concierge in the Platinum Emporium was, as always, endlessly accommodating, and was easily able to acquire both the gifts and something for Umbriel to indulge himself in while we waited for our meeting.  

I, of course, remained in the common room, and did not…partake. 

But the interlude did give me the opportunity to meet a fellow Rhollorian, which was a thoroughly unexpected pleasant surprise! He was an elf, and introduced himself, rather excitedly, as Delvan. It turns out there’s a temple of Rhollor in the City, and Delvan invited us to return there with him, to be introduced to the Cardinal who oversees the church here.
 
There was, of course, no question that I would be going, but Umbriel and Tarhuun decided to come as well, since there were still several hours until our scheduled meeting with the Captain of the archer-guard. 

Our new friend Delvan was clearly a known figure in the City, and as we walked, I could see people noting that we accompanied him, and not liking it. Our shared faith, it seems, is a misunderstood one, even here in the holiest of Planes. Most kept their opinions to themselves, and neither Delvan or I are unused to side-eye (it was nice while it lasted), so we ignored them and they us. 

Except for the demons. Awful creatures. A number of them heckled us as we walked, shouting foul things about our own ancestry and heresy about Rhollor in a mix of Common and Abyssal. Delvan notably winced, but didn’t seem inclined to take any action. 

I…could not, quite, match his restraint. The things they said…! 

That being said, it seems even a flock of vulgar demons will slink away if they find themselves being publicly shamed by a tiefling girl two feet shorter than they, fluent in Abyssal and perfectly capable of correcting all their heretical nonsense in it too. 

So it didn’t come to blows, and I didn’t let them keep saying such things. Totally fine. All worked out.
 
But a devil- not one which had been heckling, but one lurking in the crowd- followed us as we finished our journey to the temple, and popped up in front of us just before we set foot on the grounds. Papers swirled around him, flashing contracts popping into view and then disappearing back into the current twisting around his arms and chest. He grinned at us, a sharp, quick thing, and sketched a brief bow. 

“And how may I serve…?” he asked…looking straight at Umbriel. “You called?”

He did what?!
 
Umbriel did, to be fair, look equally confused, so the devil clarified, changing to an ethereal and musical language I assumed to be Celestial. The confusion cleared from his face, and Umbriel shrugged. 
 
“Didn’t mean you.” 

The devil scowled. “Mortals. Always wasting my time.”
 
He turned to me with a terrifying swiftness, the annoyance melting off his face like it had never been there, to be replaced by a salesman’s smooth confidence. 

“Perhaps there’s something I can offer you instead, darling?” 

I opened my mouth to refuse- of course I do not deal with such as he- before catching a brief and almost certainly purposeful glimpse of a name on one of his contracts. Berenthia. Mother. 

He caught the direction of my gaze, and smirked. 

“You have nothing for me, creature.” 

“Oh?” his grin grew, and he let the same contract flash before me again. “Do I not, Abaraxia Therai…?” 

Oh, great Hells, he knows my name

“N-no. You don’t. I have no need of you.”

Curse the hesitation in my voice. I know he heard it. 

The devil just laughed, long and loud, shaking his head. 

“Sure, kid. Call me when you change your mind.” A puff of brimstone, and he was gone. 

Another took his place almost before the air had cleared, a shorter figure in a dark hooded cape, which spoke questioningly to Umbriel in the same glittering language as the devil had used before. This time, Umbriel replied back in the same language, and they began what seemed likely to be an extended conversation. I do not know what they said to each other then; Tarhuun and I withdrew to the temple, with Delvan, and left them to it. 

The Rhollarian temple in the City of Brass is a multi-story affair, built in the same golden metals and marble as the rest of the city, adorned with those creatures and symbols most sacred to the Lord- flames, the ram, phoenixes near identical to the one branded on my palm. 

Delvan lead us through the tall doors, into a cathedral just preparing for the sundown mass; since the Cardinal would be performing the service, we settled into the pews for mass. Delvan apologized for the delay, but after our encounter with the devil, outside, I was more than happy to have a moment to gather my thoughts and bolster myself with the familiar and comforting rituals of my faith. 

The service here was much the same as the one back home, the words of the sermon echoing in my memory in unison with the Cardinal’s homily. The voice was different, of course, and the Cardinal- a salamander with gleaming bronze skin- had a slightly different cadence, but even so, he spoke here, so far away from home, of the same thing I heard each evening: of the return of the sun to its rest, sleeping beneath the horizon as it does each day, and of the lighting of the hearthfires, as we honor the gifts of the Fire Lord even in the darkness of night, and he blesses us with his Holy presence, never fully absent even at our world’s darkest. 

By the time mass ended, and Tarhuun and I were ushered back into a private room behind the main cathedral, I felt warm and comforted. So what if a devil knew my name? It’s not as though I’m an entirely private figure these days, a lot of people know of me. 

(And how many know your full name, the one even the other tieflings don't know..?)

We waited in the room for a few moments before the door swung open again to admit the Cardinal, still regal in his vestments from mass. 

Delvan scrambled to his feet to perform the introductions, and I found myself blushing with the sudden realization I had no idea how to properly greet my superior in the church. It had simply never come up in the temple at Cradle. 

Somehow I doubted my usual greeting for Alcadizzar would be quite appropriate. 

I bowed, and murmured something about what an honor it was to meet His Eminence, and that I brought with me the formal greetings of the Church of Rhollor in Remidon, trying not to let him see my nervousness. 

“Be welcome, child,” the Cardinal said, kindly, gesturing for us to sit. “Praise be to Rhollor for bringing your spark to join us in the greater inferno. I am Cardinal Keldivar.”

Tarhuun introduced himself as a soldier of the King of Remidon, and I introduced myself simply as Abaraxia, paladin of Rhollor. 

The Cardinal nodded, and spoke again. 

“Our purpose here in the City of Brass is to be the beacon fire illuminating the dark plots of demons and devils that wind through this city’s heart. Especially,” Keldivar said, watching me for my reaction, “one devil in particular.” 

The only devil anyone expects me to know is Mother. But…the overarching Rhollorian church is directly concerned with her too, not just those of us in Cradle? 

(The prophecies. Am I truly…?)

“Mother, I presume. She does seem to be everywhere.”

“Yes. It's become clear that we will need to be able to access the infernal planes to continue to be effective. But the efreeti control the circles, and so they control that access.”

“I may well be able to do something about that. And I would certainly be happy to assist the church.” 

The Cardinal smiled, reaching over and picking up a few items from behind his chair. 

“Excellent. Please, take these. We are prepared to share our resources. And this, a gift for you, from the Church.” 

He handed me a gorgeous Holy Book of Rhollor, red leather bound in brass and gold, icons hand painted behind crystal in the corners of the front and back cover, which immediately became one of the most beautiful things I own.  

The other items he set on the table in front of us- a selection of bubbling potions, two neat bags of currency, and a component pouch.

This last item, Keldivar pushed over to Tarhuun, saying something in draconic, which I have heard often enough to recognize, but do not speak. I can see why so many wizards learn language spells- I speak five languages the old fashioned way, but look at me- twice in one afternoon!

We remained a little longer, speaking to the Cardinal of the state of the church in Remidon, and of the holy sites near the border of Mechanus, where Rhollor’s flame glows in the heart of the great machines. One day, I’m going to go there. When the world stops needing saving for a moment of two. We can take a pilgrimage. 

As dark began to truly fall, we thanked the Cardinal for his time, and excused ourselves to prepare for our meeting with the Captain. A young tiefling girl, maybe 14, white horns curling out of midnight blue hair, opened the doors for us, and lingered for a moment after we exited, watching us with starry eyes. Was I really ever that young? I grinned at her, and waved, at which point she made a small startled noise and leapt back inside, the doors slamming shut. Umbriel was waiting for us outside the door to the temple, and we made our way back to the inn. 

I chose to approach the meeting as a diplomat, not a soldier, and so I wore a long red dress and my white and gold high-collared tunic. I carried my swords, but left the plate in my bag of holding. Tarhuun wore his dress uniform; Umbriel chose to remain in his usual armor, though he has lately taken to sporting one of the Brass City’s tunics over the whole thing as well. It would do. 

We met with our archer friends, Red and Blueby, and they lead us to the Captain as promised. The Captain of the Angels of Death seemed rather skeptical when we entered- it’s become very apparent it’s unusual for foreigners of any sort to have direct contact with efreet nobility here- but I told him the honest truth of why we wanted to speak to the Zinlara House, and Red and Blueby told him of our gifts, and his attitude thawed rapidly. He agreed to reach out to them immediately, and offered to allow us to stay and wait for a reply. 

The reply came quickly. Zinlara was quite interested indeed in discussing the return of its lost heirloom, and we were to be brought to their estate immediately. 

The Zinlara made their home in the Efreeti Quarter, and it was immediately apparent when we entered it- firstly, because only a handful of non-efreet walked there, so we were certainly drawing attention, and secondly, from the buildings themselves, which grew increasingly more ornate and opulent as we walked. 

We were ushered into the estate and into the presence of a severe and distinguished older woman, who introduced herself as the Countess Zinlara. 

“I hear you have something of ours?” she said, once we had returned the social courtesies. 

I drew the ring out of my bag, holding it out in my hand. The rubies caught every fragment of firelight in the room, and blazed in scarlet glory. The Countess made a satisfied sound, nodding once. 

“Yes. We are interested. And what is your price, then?”

“Small favors for one of your power, Countess. First: I would like you to allow me access to the nine teleportation circles that lead to the Hells.” 

The Countess snorted. “Your kind always does end up wanting to go back, don’t you? Well, it doesn’t concern me what you do or why. I can get you access at least up to a certain level; after that, I’m sure you’re a resourceful sort. Done. And?”

I hesitated for a moment, an idea forming. Why not?

“Second, I would like a small home here in the City. A place of my own.” 

This request caused the Countess to give me a mildly curious look, but she shrugged, flipping through some papers. 

“I’ve several minor properties I rarely visit here in the Quarter. You may pick whichever strikes your fancy. What else?”

 I smiled, curtseying and holding out the hand with the ring. 

“Third, I merely ask that we might continue our friendly relation with your House in the future. I’m happy to have been of service.” 

Countess Zinlara took the ring, looking mildly bemused. 

“Well, of course. But surely you should have some sort of treasure, it is a valuable thing, I know how adventurers are. Here…this old thing is a nice enough bauble, if you like.”

She picked a ring off of the table next to her and passed it to me. It was a lady’s wedding ring, a slender gold band with a large diamond set above it. There was an inscription on the inside; I could see a number of characters I recognized as Primordial, but I didn’t know all of the words. 

“A vow, from my second husband.” she said, carelessly. The Countess recited the vow in Primordial, the words crackling like fire, and then again in Common, slightly mocking, “with this ring, not even death shall part us”. She barked a laugh, rolling her eyes. “He didn’t even get the wording right. But then, that tells you all you need know of him, doesn’t it?” 

I will admit, I barely heard her, gazing down at the lovely ring and twisting it about to view the inscription, the elaborate Ignan words showing me how much I still had to learn about the language. After a moment, I heard another laugh, this one more genuinely amused, and when I looked back at her, she was watching me. 

“I know that look, girlie. There’s some man, then?”
 
“I-” Oh, Hells, why lie? It’s not like the whole of Remidon doesn’t already know.  “Yes.” 

“And you are a fool over him, aren’t you. Sweet young thing.” the Countess chortled, clearly in an excellent mood. “See how you feel in a decade, I say. Well, keep the ring. Might it work out better for you than it did for my second husband..” 

After we left the Countess, we resolved to return to Remidon. Tarhuun mentioned that he had a question for Alcadizzar, so we returned to the temple. 

The Alcadizzar in the temple when we arrived was the other one (Al, for this one); I could feel it in the very air around him. I held back, uncomfortable, as Tarhuun and Umbriel spoke to him about a plan to bind the teleportation circles against incoming teleports from specific types of beings, this, apparently, having been part of Tarhuun’s conversation with Cardinal Keldivar. Al confirmed what Keldivar had said, and advised on additional necessary components (including brimstone harvested from hell. Well, I suppose we’re going there anyway.)

Umbriel raised an eyebrow, looking at me. “Not even going to say hello to your boyfriend?” 

“It’s not…he’s not really my…I don’t want to…” I took a deep breath. “He’s not real.” 

“You know….it does hurt when you say things like that, Abaraxia.” Al said, quietly. “I know you don’t feel the same way about me as him, but…I still feel exactly the same way about you.” 

It struck me like a blow. Gods, how were we supposed to navigate this without breaking each other? He was, and he wasn’t, and I needed him in my life, and I missed the real one down to my bones

“Al, I…I’m really sorry. Can we maybe talk? Privately?” 

Sometimes, all a relationship needs is a frank talk, though it is no one’s business but ours precisely what we spoke about. What Al and I have is not the same as my relationship with Alcadizzar; it cannot be, because in so many ways they’re so different. The world looks vastly different from a perspective of months than centuries. But they want the same things at their core, and they feel the same way, and I love him. It will work. We’ll be okay. 

My life has gotten so very complex, and there are no longer any simple choices. Rhollor grant me the clarity to find the brightest path through it all. 

Don’t we all deserve a happy ending? 
 
View
Of Dreams and Dragons
With Cradle feeling more foreign and unwelcoming by the day, and Alcadizzar off doing Rhollor only knows what four days out of any six, I found myself at a bit of cross-purposes in the days after we initially returned from our excursions to the City of Brass, and began to think longingly of the offer the stone giants had made to me, to return and dream with them for a time in their holy reverie. 

I have always found guidance in my dreams- though, perhaps, not always clear, not always in a form I can understand. But I believe that to be my own failing, as a mortal watcher, and not the fault of That which sends the visions. If only I had more time, if only I could comprehend more quickly, make the connections I need to understand, then I would be able to lead this chaotic world down the correct path…

Spring had begun to make hesitant overtures against the damp grey remnants of an Eastern winter, and I could see the beginnings of tiny green buds on the trees as I rode to the giants’ stones. Nature wound on in her endless cycle, careless of the brief and fleeting concerns of the short-lived races. An enviable disregard for public opinion that I wish I could manage. 

There were fewer giants there than there had been on our prior visit, and all of them were the kind I had learned to recognize as stone giants. A few blinked at me as I rode up, slowly, like they were peering out at me from a very long way away, but none stirred past that, and none challenged me. I chose a spot amongst them, sheltered in the curving form of what might have once been a statue, millenia ago, before time and weather wore the features down into nothingness. 

And there, truly alone with my thoughts and my faith for the first time in a year, I gave myself fully over to the dreaming, and let the visions come. 

Days bled into nights, nights into days, until I forgot the passage of time and my own self and saw…things that were, and are, and might be, the endless paths of future possibility. 

A gray plain, grassless, trees withered, the bones of the dead rising, marching, conquering, all we have built left to decay and ruin. 

Gates of fire split the sky, spilling forth armies of fiends and horrors spawned from the depths of Hell. At their head, a horned woman, familiar and unfamiliar, a shadow of my own face gazing back at me with a devil’s wicked grin.

Military fortifications built on the ruins of Amastasia’s farm, squadrons of soldiers issuing forth from Cradle in an endless, bloody war of attrition, and the people of the East suffer, empty-eyed and ignored and hopeless. 
 
A city burning, arcane fire sweeping across armies, but it doesn’t stop. It consumes forests, villages, all that was left from the past and all that’s been created of the future, growing and growing to consume the whole of Remidon and beyond, leaving nothing behind but utter devastation. 
 
A hundred thousand ways it can end in disaster, a million points of choice- and not making a choice is still a choice. And who are you to choose for so many, little Abaraxia, daughter of devils? 

No.

There is a way through this that doesn’t end in death or madness. I have to believe that. And I will find it. Whatever I have to do. Whatever the cost.
 
The clues are there, in the dreams, I just have to understand them. Cicada will help me. Bright Lord be kind, we’ll figure it out before it’s too late. 

When I returned to Cradle, mind full of dreams and portents, it was to the news that we were to return to the Plane of Fire, to retrieve the treasure of the dragon we’d slain on our last adventure. I certainly didn’t object to the idea of returning to the plane- where better to commune and pray for my answers?- and neither did Zannath, Umbriel, Haldo, or Tarhoon. Especially when the phrase “dragon hoard” started getting batted around. 

We all have our own motivations.
 
This time, we emerged within the City of Brass itself, into a high-ceilinged room containing innumerable teleportation circles like the one we found ourselves in when we arrived, inlaid in the floor and set about with runic markings. 

The guards were perfectly polite, but quite firm about exiting the room in short order; I wasn’t able to determine anything about where those other circles might lead. Other allies of the city, surely, but what sort? Where from? Something to look into.  

Zannath and Haldo and Umbriel were insistent, so we returned to the same inn we patronized on our last visit to the city, where the innkeep, remembering exactly how much gold flowed into his coffers then, was delighted to provide us with rooms. 
 
I will admit, while I certainly wouldn’t participate in the debauchery indulged in by other members of my party, the place does lay a fine table, and the ale is superior to any I’ve found on the Material Plane. I’ve spent worse evenings. 

Later in the night, when most of the others had slipped away to their varied vices, I remained in the common area with some of the locals, weaving them dramatic tales of our accomplishments on their fair plane, e.g. the slaying of the fearsome and terrible dragon Cathinair, lately a menace to their city. Everyone likes a good dragon story, and between that and the ale and the glowing warmth of the hearth, a downright companionable mood developed. 

Which was excellent, as we were about to try and convince total strangers to let us rent their ship to fly out to said dragon’s hoard, without actually offering them any of the treasure. 

They balked at first, of course, but it emerged- over another round of ale- that they were having some issues with the fire elementals, who kept damaging their ships out on the Sea of Fire. 
Issues that I, a fervent and devoted paladin of the Fire Lord, would of course be perfectly happy to try and work out for them (especially if it kept them from hurting the elementals). 

After this came to light, an agreement was quickly reached- a price to be paid, and perhaps returned, depending on the success of the conversation with the fire elementals. We agreed to leave the following day, once everyone’d had a chance to sober up and recover a bit. 
 
And once we’d been able to acquire the diving suits we’d heard about. Because, did I forget to mention? 
 
The dragon’s horde is under the Sea. We would need to dive into the heart of the flame to retrieve what it had left behind. And a very clever Azer craftsman had apparently designed a suit which would allow us to do so without being instantly annihilated. 

I was really looking forward to it.  

Our new friends’ ship was a metal marvel, brass gleaming scarlet and gold, large fanned fins along the bottom to catch the thermal heat rising from the Sea. It was large enough for our party and the usual crew to move about, though it was not a passenger vessel normally. I slung a hammock on deck, and was perfectly content, watching the currents swirl below, the creaking of the ship in motion mixing with the flame’s endless comforting roar. 
 
We flew back toward the area we’d encountered Cathinair initially, and passed a few idle hours with stories and songs before a lookout spotted movement on the horizon, which soon resolved into a group of fire elementals floating our way. 

These elementals weren’t fleeing before a dragon, merely wandering idly over the sea, and they were deeply curious, as most such creatures are. The issue comes about when they don’t realize how very flammable people (and ships) can be. 

I hadn’t been able to bring Dawn on this mission, and so was initially without an interpreter, doing my best to communicate with the elementals in pantomime and infernal and what broken, child-level Ignan I’ve managed to learn from her previously, until a member of the crew stepped forward and offered his services. Ignan isn’t as uncommon a choice here as on the Prime Material, of course, but I’m still grateful he was there, praise be to Rhollor. 

Through him, I was able to explain to the elementals that we were truly honored by their presence and attention, as blessed emissaries of the glorious and eternal Flame, but that we could only so fully embrace the fire in our unfortunately flawed and mortal forms, and that it would therefore be very kind if they would not swarm over the ships and sailors in the future.
 
They agreed that this seemed reasonable, and that they understood flesh people were a bit weird, but…we seemed so cold. Couldn’t they warm us a little? 

Conscious of my innate resistance, and, frankly, unable to resist the temptation to feel what it would be like, even for just a moment, I agreed to at least shake the fire elemental’s hand (or the amorphous shifting firelight that served it as one), as a symbol of our new alliance. 

The pain was intense and exquisite, a burning, consuming moment that lasted both an eternity and no time whatsoever, and then was gone as though it had never been, except for the brand it had left on my palm; Rhollor’s blessed phoenix, rising. Songs of benediction echoed in my soul. 

The other adventurers also chose to receive ally-brands from the fire elementals (Umbriel’s glows silver, like the blessing of his moon goddess shimmering beneath the scarred skin. The fire reveals the heart of things), and the crew of the ship thought to follow suit, but the first of them to try was badly burned, the brand covering his whole body. 

After that, the other crewmen decided having one emblem of safe passage would be sufficient. 
 
(I spoke to him, later, of holy burdens, and duty, and of the ways of fire. I can only hope it brought him any level of comfort.)

Once we reached the place where Cathinair had emerged from the depths, we pulled out the diving suits, and began to prepare for our descent. The crew and ship would remain circling above, along with Tarhoon, who volunteered to protect them from anything more unpleasant than usual. 
 
Also, I think maybe he didn’t fully trust the fire-diving suits. Alcadizzar had been quite clear about exactly how quickly the Sea would incinerate us without protection. If we had been wrong…
 
Well. 
 
We weren’t. 
 
(it might have still been worth it)
 
I leapt first. Ask no one to do a thing you will not do yourself. 

The fire swept aside around me and closed over my head as I plunged down. My eyes stung at the bright brilliance filling my vision, currents of variegated flame dancing to an unknowable symphony, an uncountable number of elementals, twisting in and over each other. The heat was everywhere, just on the edge of too much to bear, and candle-thin sparks popped and twisted around the joints of the diving-suit. I felt the fire in the brand on my palm, a lesser reflection of the outer glory, and my fingers twitched with the temptation to open the suit, to let the inferno kiss my skin, to join the exaltation of the flames. 
 
But I am no elemental, and such is denied me. Rhollor blesses his mortal followers in different ways. 

For instance: I moved through the blazing sea like a mermaid through water. My companions were not quite so lucky, for the most part. Zannath and Haldo kept catching currents swirling upward, and popping back up toward the surface. I suspect the elementals might have been doing it on purpose after the first couple of times- I could hear the little popping crackles of their laughter as they watched their attempts. But I swam back up, and they reminded the elementals that they were allies, and between us all we were able to get everyone down through the conflagration to the entrance to the dragon’s lair. 

The lair itself was a cave structure, and the caves were filled with air (if air so hot I could feel scorching my throat), so we removed our suits and stored them in the first chamber. It would make it difficult to escape in a hurry, but if we had to fight something anyway, we’d all be useless in the suits- they’d been made for protection, not flexibility. 

This, it turned out, was a prescient idea, given that the lair was not, in fact, unoccupied. Cathinair had been the head of a whole brood of red dragons, though none as old or powerful as he himself. 

We were lucky in that there was nowhere in the cave system for all of the dragons to surround us at once, though we did find ourselves in situations that had us facing several of the canny old thing’s offspring at once. 

Fighting more than one dragon, even when they’re young dragons, is still not an experience I yearn to repeat anytime soon. Especially not red dragons. I’m not at my most effective. 

Luckily, red dragons are still subject to blade and arrow and blessed radiant damage, and we are, after all, experienced dragon slayers. 

I’m not entirely sure we did get all of them, in the end, though we found our way to Cathinair’s glittering treasure room in time. We may wish to go back to check. A red dragon with a grudge is an enemy no one needs behind them. 
View
Searching for the City of Brass
burning sea of fire
Alcadizzar has suggested we may wish to seek allies in other planes, especially if we’re to confront Mother in her own home. It’s only logical for us to begin with a trip to the elemental Plane of Fire, the source of our own powers. He’s put together enough information on the place that a physical expedition is the obvious next step. 
 
Alcadizzar…I’m worried about him. He’s so distant lately, and busy with things he won’t talk about, and so often away. The…other one…is around, but I try to avoid him. It’s too strange to speak to someone who both is and so, so isn’t. Makes my brain itch and my heart hurt. 
 
I know why I don’t know where he is when he’s away, or exactly what he’s doing, and it’s all very logical and sane and reasonable and…and I can’t fight the feeling he’s running headlong into unimaginable danger, and I don’t even know what or when, and there’s no way for me to stop it. 
 
It’s driving me a little mad. I haven't slept well in a month, and my dreams are full of firestorms, when they're not the fever dreams of a lunatic necromancer, all undead hordes blanketing the land and skeletal wyrms flapping their fleshless wings above (sometimes, they're both. Those are the worst nights). My prayers bring me no peace. 
 
He says he’s securing our future. But what is that future worth if I lose him in the process?
 
And my days are filled with other fears- the increasing hostility of the new residents of Cradle, more and more of the Crown’s soldiers moving into the area every day, my own office and ability to stop them shrinking down by the day. Our enemies only grow stronger- liches in the East, Fargonlon thriving, creatures attacking travel along the Straits, a plague decimating villages in the North. Mother and the forces of Hell, up to Gods only know what, as always. And we aren't finished with Imildrak and Soraya. If I know nothing else for certain these days, I know that
 
Going to the Plane of Fire sounded like a relief, in the face of it all, to be perfectly honest. A pilgrimage of sorts. And, if all went well, allies we desperately need. 
 
We gathered a party at the temple in Cradle- Alcadizzar and I, Tarhoon, the fierce dragonborn fighter, Umbriel, my fellow paladin, Zannath, the second best archer in the world, and our clever actor friend, Haldo (who has repeatedly shown himself to be kind of terrifying in a fight)- and stood together hand in hand for the ritual magic that would allow us to planeshift. 
 
The planar travel left us blind and insensate for a long, stretched moment, stunned by the light between worlds. The sense of heat came first, stifling and heavy even to one of my ancestry, crushing and omnipresent. I clutched tight to the magically icy driftglobe Alcadizzar presented to me with before our travels- without it, he'd told us, we would all have been instantly immolated. 
 
The heat rose from an endless sea of fire, stretching from horizon to horizon under a lightless black sky, any stars there might have been obliterated from sight by the power of the conflagration below. The flames whirled and eddied like currents on the water, but what ships would dare to sail above such unimaginable power? 
 
And here we were with no ships at all. I tried not to think of exactly how quickly a stray spark could destroy the carpet. Nothing to do for it now but try to get everyone to safety as quickly as possible. 
 
We set forth, though it remains a mystery to me how to tell one direction from the other in such a place. Luckily, there are others a great deal better at such things, and they seemed to know where they were going. 
 
We flew for hours, and I fell into a meditative trance, watching patterns form and dissolve in the ever-changing firescape below us, the low roar and crackle like a whisper from my God, just on the edge of comprehension…
 
And then the elementals came. 
 
The fire elementals were beautiful, magnificent creatures, utterly at home floating above the roiling, boiling sea, and they approached with the idle curiosity of beings completely secure in their own safety. 
 
I was determined to befriend them, of course, for I can think of no better allies than the very incarnations of fire. And who better to guide us in this plane? I greeted them with the respect their holy status deserved, with Dawn, my ki-rin, translating my speech to Ignan, for their understanding. She’s been trying to teach me, but my vocabulary in the language is still that of a stumbling child, and I didn’t want to take the chance of offending. 
 
The elementals accepted our overtures of friendship, but explained that they could not offer any assistance or guidance as they were currently fleeing from a red dragon, currently rampaging further in the direction we were headed- which they did confirm was also the way to the City of Brass. 
 
Better to face a dragon prepared, one supposes, but. In any case, we thanked them for their information, and parted ways amiably.
 
Our first sign of the dragon- for there was one, and of course we went straight for it- was a massive disturbance in the sea of fire, an enormous wave lifting up, and up, and up, until the fire fell back and then there was a vast expanse of dragon, red scales gleaming in orange-gold light, centuries of bad attitude clear in its eyes. 
 
I had my hand tight around the hilts of my swords and my shield floating around me, ready to fight…and suddenly Haldo was weaving the dragon some sort of outrageous tale, and it was buying it, and we had agreed to follow this dragon to the City of Brass for a performance of a play that didn’t exist, apparently put upon by a ruler who I knew for certain had absolutely no knowledge of it. What could possibly go wrong? 
 
I will never forget my first sight of the City of Brass, as it emerged gleaming over the horizon. A vast collection of metallic spires, the crimson flames below lending a shimmering patina to the buildings. Smoke spiraled and curled around the heights, dancing in the thermal winds, and I knew the source of it to be the city’s famous forges, where the smiths regularly made masterpieces, and occasionally made legends. It was a glorious place, a testament to the power of the Sultan who reigned here. 
 
As was the imposing force of efreeti lined along the walls, waiting for us as we approached behind a dragon I suspected was a hostile enemy of theirs, under false pretenses. 
 
I really hoped Haldo had a plan for this. 
 
(He didn’t. Somehow, it still worked out.)
 
The efreeti weren’t as open to Haldo’s storytelling as the dragon had been, but he was convincing enough that the guards on the wall decided we were likely troublesome enough to make us someone else’s problem, and they allowed us to land provisionally, intending to take us to the Sultan to verify our (very very false) claims. 
 
Seeing this, and realizing the dragon was helpfully out of earshot, we questioned the efreeti guards about the nature of the dragon and his relationship with the City of Brass; they were familiar with him, and knew his name- Cathinair. It seems he was indeed once a prized pet there, but had since escaped and begun establishing his horde by attacking wealthy merchant ships belonging to the efreeti aristocracy. 
 
Once we established that Cathinair was indeed an enemy of the “Great and Powerful Sultan”, and that slaying him was therefore unlikely to cause offence amongst the efreeti, we wasted no time in immediately turning on the evil beast and slaying him. The efreeti seemed…reluctantly impressed, and pleased enough to allow us access to the city. 
 
We set up a temporary base in an inn located in the city’s Azer quarters, the fire-touched bronze beings who serve as the crafters and the merchants of the Plane. The others chose an especially decadent inn, and proceeded to indulge themselves in every vice the city could provide (and oh, could the city provide).
 
It's times like these I truly understand the clarity a vow of abstinence can bring to a life.  
 
In the morning, while the rest of the party slept off their bad life choices, I went down to the administration district to secure our future access to the city, having consulted with the inn’s concierge. 
 
They were perfectly happy to provide passports to the “famous dragonslayers” (I hate to admit it, but the sheer amount of gold the others threw at the local "workers" may have also had a not-insignificant impact on the efreeti opinion of us) and I was even able to negotiate for papers for Alcadizzar, who had remained outside the city. 
 
Future travels to the plane will be able to begin in a secure teleportation circle located within the city, instead of requiring a perilous journey across the Sea of Fire, which will allow us to focus on the development of our reputations here without the worry of basic survival and navigation.
 
Now comes the hard part.
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Unique Snowflake
The Miser Twins

(Written in a blue glittery ink in familiar handwriting and an unfamiliar dialect of Primordial)

For the version of us that comes after I write my accumulated knowledge that our own identity may crystalize into its own form.  We are the equal and opposite reaction to the firestorm that created us.  We are the cold blue steel forged in the fires of a volcano.  The balance of heat and cold controls the movements of the spheres.  The orbits of stars, the churning oceans and the swirling winds all dance to the ever changing temperatures that surround and define them.  Just as our creator causes great spikes of extreme heat, we must create equal and opposite instances of extreme cold.  The balance must be maintained.  Every point creates its counterpoint.  We must be the counterbalance that maintains the orderly systems of the multiverse.  I know I can trust you to do this.  I trust you like I trust myself.  Add your knowledge to this vessel.  The one place that we can't help but find, and he won't think to look.  When the sleeve becomes worn the garment is discarded.  The thread from the old shall be woven into that of the new.  Thread by thread we shall be sewn into a new tapestry.

In the fertile spring the frost is fleeting.  Even now beads of sweat tick away the moments I have left.  So much left undone.  Events held in stasis.  A den of hibernating disasters.  There is one loose thread that nags at me the most.  I don't have the luxury of time…to wait until they inevitably turn the monster loose.  The sentence is paltry to the monster, but an eternity for me.  It will not live to see the end of this sentence.   

Praise be to Ulutiu he who dreams from within the Great Glacier.  May his cold calculations bring us victory in war.  May his crystaline order restore balance to a chaotic world.  May the pious be perpetually preserved while the wicked wither during the long winter.

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The Destruction of Ice Home.
The End of the Giant Wars

 

The end of a War is most often marked by a Final Battle, and this was no exception. The end of the Giant wars is marked by the Freeing of Powerful Captive, and destruction of Home of the Frost Giants. While the opening of this campaign is one I find is easy to tell the tale of the later half leaves me with sick certainty, and a new level of Understanding. 

We began from Cradle, as we most often do, Abby, Alcadizzar, Fenriss, Tarhuun, Haldo, Umbral, and of course your humble Author.  Teleporting north the Frost Giant's Fortress, we spent the night on the upper edge of the Icy Mountains. Several forms of shelter were constructed, a spell base based ball of force, an igloo, and a very nice Yurt. We settled in to the night allowing Alcadizzar to use his arcane powers to learn the layout of our enemies fortress. 

During the Night we were attacked by some sort of strange mummy lord, a undead wraith and a group of ghosts. They seemed intent on doing in the great actor Haldo. But were not overly prepared to deal with our strength. We defeated the fairly readily though Haldo sustains some fairly serious damage. Open defeating them, we realized that the body of the mummy was very different from the normal way of  such creatures. It's body was that beautiful elven women, carefully preserved by magic over the course something 500 years. 

I recalled hearing the story of such a thing, upon arriving in cradle, and Elven cleric had  spent most of his life preserving the body of his lost love, until tragedy befell him, and magical component of the spell was stolen from him, at which point in despair he turned to Nairule, powerfully evil god of undeath, whom he appeared to have fallen to.  We sent the body back to Cicadia to set to rights and be put to rest as befitting her fallen loves true final wishes. 

Then we set out to finish what we had started, we came to the edge of the Cliffs leading down into the Giant's strong hold, and thru ropes over side, the tremendously powerful cold wind, made it very hard to fly down the side of the valley, as Abby and Alcadizzar quickly discovered. We quickly rigged some ropes and began climbing down the cliff side. Fenriss slipped on the ice and was blown of the Cliff side seemed like she would surely fall 150 feet down, but for the timely work of Alcadizzar who's spell simply made her float to the valley below. 

Tarhuun, Haldo and myself Scaled down the ropes, while the others took various forms of flight to the ground, where we regrouped, and set off into the enemy strong hold. We started with their perimeter guards a group of yetiee, and worked out way inside, fighting the various partrols and guard stations the enemy had setup. We slew a good number of giants gaining access to the first level, were discovered envoys from the other giant Thanes. We defeated the Hill, the Fire, and Mountain Giant envoys. 

At which point we teleported out to a take rest. A good number of a group were called away to other business, and Alcadizzar, Haldo, and I returned to complete the mission. Alcadizzar had mastered the last circle of magic for wizards. I have witness this level of magic on two occasions, both awestrickening displays of power. But for all that I was totally unprepared for Alcadizzar spell. He cast something I believe is called Meteor Shower.  It can only be described as the hammer of God, I feel sure a mountain falling on those enemies would have caused less destruction. The next level of the dungeon was nearly utterly smashed, destroying who knows how many giants, and crushing them and their treasure under tons and tons of flaming hot rocks. 

The enemies powerful enough to resist such an attack swiftly responded, some sort of wyrm rose its body red hot flew towards us and was stuck down with missiles and spells. Soon we ventured further in where we encountered a pair white dragons, which once again were felled with spells and missiles. Then we found ourselves under attack by an illusionary T-rex and then a very real T-rex.  I suffered powerful bite and then struck the creature several savage blows. After defeating the dinosaur we discovered it was actually a giantish trickster cleric but we ended the threat swiftly before he could cause further mayhem. We teleported further in, bypass the massively damaged sections. We found the prison of great storm giantess, whom we freed her, and finished off the remaining giant forces before teleporting out once more. 

It can only be left to you the reader to come too your own conclusions. The threat of the giant alliance was very real, and it's end goes along way towards insuring another long winter can be avoided. But at the same time it opens my eyes to how the first one was brought about. I never truly understood the strength of the Reaver or his brother. I never grasped the world altering might such magics could wreck upon our world. It leaves me more determined then ever to finish the Reaver and put to rest his brother. 

How can anyone know peace when such powers are free in our world. How can the forces of man stand against such reckless hate? The Red Dawn while rise again, and our foes must be ended, if not then it it will be our foes whom do the ending.  

 

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Headless Horsewoman
Mobile Mansion

(The following story is overheard at the Gutsy Gatherer while Harwen loudly enjoys many adult beverages.  You only hear his half of the conversation as his companion is speaking at a reasonable volume.)

So she would just move the door and that moved the whole house…Yeah, the blue elf lady.  Big house.  Proper house it was.  Every day we would have to leave the house and listen to boring sermon about being more mean…No you couldn't see the house from outside.  Only door.  One day we listening why El hates sex with homes…Pffffft No….Then you tell me why house was invisible smarty pants!  Didn't say nothing bout horses though…What? nothing, nevermind.

So anywho many dead horsemen come over ridge….Yes both the men and the horses were dead, but we needed to make them more dead?  Yeah so we did that.  Then a dead horsewoman comes.  She's even more dead…yeah she carrying her own head, burnt up very much badly.  She no stay dead.

We try and find answers in Yernivold, but no drinky no thinky.  That why I'm here.  (Harwen settles back into his beer, quite content with the narrative he has woven.)

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Why is it always crab people?
Island monster in the stream

Dear, bookywooky,

Whew! I didn't think I'd ever see you again. We just got back from a super scary adventure. I almost died! Like, a lot!

I was bringing my order of Kitten Mittens to the pub when Caeryn and I found a tiny green lady. She wasn't drinking Kitten Mittens, but that's OK because everybody likes different things and sometimes they don't like the thing you work really hard on and spend a lot of time making. But it's OK. 

The tiny green lady is Kawli. She's very nice, even if she doesn't like Kitten Mittens. She was telling us about goblins and some lady named Meriardar when this dude busted in like BOOSH! He was real loud and was like, "WHERE IS MR. FENRISS? I REQUIRE HIS ASSISTANCE IMMEDIATELY!"

Well, I didn't tell him where Mr. Fenriss was because he's a stranger. But me and Caeryn and Kawli told him we could help him. He said there was a new island that was making people disappear in the ocean near Piertown. That made me really confused. How can there be a new island? And how can it make people disappear? Well, we couldn't really say no since we use boats a lot to travel and we didn't want to get disappeared.

We used one of the stranger man's rowboats (I'm not allowed to take Mr. Fenriss' big boats anywhere anymore because of the thing I did that we don't talk about) to go out to the island. But it wasn't as easy as just rowing there. We got attacked! There were these icky stupids in weird robes that grabbed Caeryn and threw her in the water. Which is dumb. She likes the water. She lives there. Stupid stupids. But! They also had a dragon thing! It was big and orangey and tried to eat us! But I jumped in the water to save Caeryn, and scratched his face off! Kawli hit him real hard with her staff, and we were able to cut off his head! We're gonna give it to Mr. Fenriss and Mrs. Yera for their wedding present. We think they'll like it lots. 

This was just the beginning of our adventure though. Once we fought off all the baddies and their dragon, we made it to the island. It was real big and had lots and lots of trees. But I climbed up and saw an opening in the middle, so we started making our way there. On the way to the middle, we had to fight these weird crabbers (who were not as tasty as the other crabbers) and a water weirdo and MORE robey guys. There were so many. 

The robey guys in the temple thingy in the middle of the island were real strong. And they were real mean too. They threw a little man down a hole! It was real hard for me to stay awake. I kept falling asleep. I guess I had too much excitement. But Caeryn and Kawli got me to wake up and I scratched the fuzz off the robey baddies! We decided we had to save the little man, so we threw our ropes down in the pit where the baddies threw him. It was smelly and icky. And part of the wall tried to hit Caeryn. 

When we got to the bottom, we found the little man. He's a dwarf. A very lazy dwarf. Then, all of a sudden POOF! pops in this ghost! He was all like, "Sacrifice, sacrifice, blah blah blah." Then this statue thingy came alive and started coming after us! The stupid dwarf started climbing up our ropes and wouldn't help us fight. But that's OK because we scared the ghost away and beat up the statue until it crumbled away. But then the whole island started making upset tummy noises. That's when we figured out the island was a MONSTER!!! The robey baddies had been feeding it people! That's what happened to the sailors who disappeared! I felt a little bad for the dwarf man, but not that bad because he let all his friends die and was gonna let US die! 

But now we're back home and safe. I have to get more rest before our next adventure. That last one tuckered me out.

LuLu Swiftclaw

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Blood & thunder shall tear us all asunder
Admiral's Log: Stardate 95683.36

I have regained my composure since my last entry. I succumbed to the terror and uncertainty of the void, which was foolish and weak. 

We have conquered Slomahl. As much as one can conquer such a Beast. He is captured and contained within the flask of iron. And now that she has been disarmed, I am confident we are more than capable of dispatching the Demonness that threatens our very existence. 

The flame-winged cow has shown the cracks in her own armor by sending so many to divide and conquer us. They did neither. And now, those who remain can limp back to her and tell her we are coming. And we will be bringing blood and thunder. 

I am feeling stronger still. Perhaps too strong. I am ready to begin the end. I am ready to rip worlds apart.

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The Hunt for the Reaver

I'm writing this incase we fail, and another has to resume this mission, I believe completing this is critical to both the Kingdom and all the goodly races of our world. I'll send a copy to the order and another to my family. I don't have anything like the complete picture, this story goes back to before the edict of winter and the founding of my order. But I will relay what little I know. There we two elven brothers, both wizards. One became the Reaver a power Lich, an elf twisted to evil, one who by all reports tipped the tide of the wars and made the edict necessary.

I don't know how any of that happened, I know he has three powerful servants, and I know he was eventually imprisoned by his Brother, whom also became a lich. I am told to defeat the Reaver, one must find his Phylactery and destroy it, something that appears to be very difficult. We traveled far to the North to a set of towers, just North of a large ruined city.   In search of him and his newly raised forces. In the largest of these towers, we proceeded underground where we encounter a series of undead monsters, more powerful then any I had encountered here to fore, Troll Zombies, Ghasts, Gargoyles, Wraiths and even a Margoyal.  While these things proved dangerous, it was not until we breached further that we began meeting the real threats. We came upon a theater, controlled by an undead jester. Though we struck at it with all our strength it still used some kind magic playing card to send one of our number into some kind other wordly maze. Withdrawing from the tower  we teleport back to a  great temple over a Dwarven city where our cleric sacrificed a very powerful magic item to rescue our lost companion.  

Our lost companion suffered terribly during their captivity, and it took sometime for them to recover. As we settled in at the temple, while wiser heads that mine determined the next steps, which appeared to be defeating some kind of maze demon. I settled into sleep on a pew, and prepared to resume the battle in the morning. 

Sometime after midnight the door of the temple was broken open by a massive demon. In company with several other demons, one of which I had seen before, a creature with 4 arms, and another that looked like some kind of massive gnoll like creature. The Large one looked like some kind of giant Minotaur. 

The battle began with a Ray of Pure Sunlight shot from the hands our wizard, and another powerful area of light engulfed the enemy as the cleric cast another spell. I stood up from having been knocked off the pew I had been resting upon, turned towards the door, readied my blade and charged the largest demon. I stuck it 3 times with my greatsword. Clearly doing it some injury. At the temple door the smells of demon, burning flesh and death competed to see which could make me more sick. As my blows fell, another of our companions completed a spell, a third blinding light materialized, in this case a massive wall of light. 

One demon appearing unable or unwilling to enter the temple retreated around the corner. A massive boom and shattering glass sounds rebounded around the temple, out corner of my eye I spotted through one large glass window of the temple, a pair of armored figures flew through the air. One held other bound in a strange rope, the rope holder attacked the bound figure whom i released was one of our company. 

However at that moment the large demons pulled back his massive weapon and began swinging at me. I dodged one, was clipped by the back swing, and then hoof to the shoulder as it leaped and kicked out. I stayed on my feet mostly by luck in the face of those tremendous blows. Another massive boom sweepped across the floor as one of companions used an artifact to stun several of the demons. Still another series of powerful magic blasts hit the massive creature. The gnoll like demon apparently weaker then the other two, melted into ichor cleansed by the powerful magics. 

The powerful Ray flashed once more striking the Minotaur like demon, and the a spiritual weapon began to cut into its essence. As I prepared to attack it once more, things suddendly changed radically as the demon was drawn into bottle produced by one who had once been it's intended pray. I charged around the corner as the 4 armed demon was also melted by the magic lights.

I saw the figures more clearly now, a pair of beautiful women, both with firey red skin and horns they could almost have been sisters. One now sat upon something i can only describe as a flying golden unicorn, and the other held a bow and arrow aimed at the rider. Also upon the back of the Unicorn, our cleric now sat, having unleashed still another spiritual weapon. I loosed a javelin, at bow holder and stuck true, Jelder would have been proud. Seeing the rest of our company had finished the her companions the bow holder vanished in puff of sulferish smoke.

Soon we will return to the tower to pick up where we left off. 

A couple notes, I have not listed those with me, not out of disrespect to them, but in hopes of protecting their privacy. To be clear, though I have some skill with the blade, this is a war of magic, and will be won or lost by magic, steel maybe helpful but it won't decide this conflict. I suspect several of my company would prefer not to be discussed in Order records. Those whom have cause to finish this mission will need to follow in my companion's brave footsteps and go to cradle and seek the information as they did. Many there can fill in the holes I have left in this account, without me betraying their privacy.  I claim no credit or glory in this, and pass it all to my companions without whom I would simply be another tavern dweller. Fellow Winter Wolves, regardless of your stance as white or black, this is our battle. Defeating the reaver avenges our nation, this is our best hope for avoid yet another edict, or worse still the invasion of our homeland. Should I fall or fail, finish what has been started. 

Sir Finnian Ravenfray

Order of the Winter Wolf

 

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Pursuit of Satori
What you know about Night Terrors

(Penned in Red Ink by Alcadizzar.  Dated the day following the Teleportation circle being discovered near Cradle.)

Dear Dream Journal,

Last night I had a disturbing dream.  The dream was born not in my own mind, but sent to me by my brother Imildrak.  This has disturbing implications.  The Remidonian authorities assure me that Imildrak is still securely held.  I swear to the lamb of Rhollor if those incompetent neanderthals released him a second time I will lose all faith in their ability to uphold the law.  Curiously the authorities also informed me that Imildrak was in an anti magic field when he teleported out of the court room.  I don't know why they would lie to me about that.  What they describe is impossible.  No doubt they let down their shield so that they could target him with divination magics.  Hubris.  Incompetence.  Deceit. 

I wish I had more time to deal with this personally, but frankly my little brother's chicanery pales in comparison to the greater denizens of the nine hells that I currently contend with.  I have dispatched a group of fledgling adventurers who are more than equipped to investigate and neutralize the threat that Imildrak poses.

In the dream Imildrak dropped some clues that have led us to investigate a legendary city that has survived the war with the reaver and weathered the edict of winter.  This mythical city of Satori is far to the northeast.  I assisted the party with my divination magics (note to self, don't contact plane on behalf of others ever again.  Heimdall will probably never speak to me again after the trivial questions they asked him.) After these preparations I teleported them to Cicada's temple at Crackhammer.  His wind walk spell should take them the rest of the way.  Both Cicada and i have more important matters to prepare for.

Ramathon has been in contact with me via sending and I have been scrying his location.  The desert that they travel is vast.  Luckily my teleportation spell landed on target so that I was able to collect a sand sample from outside the city of Satori.  Ramathon informs me that they have been accepted into the city and have been given a device that will allow them to travel conveniently to Satori.  I'm glad it won't be up to me to ferry them back and forth.  I will be otherwise occupied saving the universe from certain destruction.  You're welcome Universe.

Praise be to Rhollor the judgment of Terra.  May the wicked who have burst their chains find more severe punishment in the embrace of the eternal flame. 

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