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As we recovered from our battle in the triune temple dedicated to Sargonnas, Morgion, and Chemosh, we considered what to do about the vampire minotaur and elf, as well as the two liches who had teleported away. Obviously, since the temple was dedicated to Morgion, the two liches devoted to that goddess would not simply abandon their holy charges, and most likely they had retreated to an inner sanctum to recover and plan. As we considered our options, we heard a terrible clamor from the door we had entered through, as sounds of battle -- accompanied by draconic roars -- could be heard.

After several moments, a huge boulder shattered the stone door, revealing the distant figures of a Solamnic knight in full regalia and a silver dragon. Unsure as to the nature of this apparition at first, we regarded the figure who seemed equally confused by our presence in the still-burning temple. The silver dragon assumed a smaller form, using its natural shapeshifting ability, so that he could enter the human-scale temple complex.

From opposite sides of the walkway, which collapsed from the wayward debris and boulder, we regarded each other. The tall Solamnic removed his helm, introducing himself as Adam Crownguard, Master of Swords, with his draconic companion, who chose to be called Glorius. Apparently, Crownguard was questing in the hopes of achieving initiation into the highest order of the Solamnic Knights, the Order of the Rose. He had come to Kakartha in the hopes of finding an ogress named Alecast, presumably the high priestess of Morgion of this temple, who had been responsible for a virulent plague that had ravaged Solamnia and Northern Ergoth in the years before the war began.

Once we were assured of Crownguard's credentials (a process that was resolved relatively quickly, admittedly), I conjured a magical bridge across the chasm -- a spell developed by the Red Robe wizard Billim early in the Conclave's history. From there, we introduced ourselves -- although our reputations were well known to the Master of Swords, and finally we considered our next move. For a time, we tried to discern the location of the vampires' coffins, but this proved problematic since their gaseous forms allowed them to maneuver through the numerous cracks in the structure's stone walls and floors much more easily than we could ever hope to reproduce. Finally, we began investigating the pathways leading out of the original battle with the undead clerics, destroying several lesser vampires in the sanctum to Sargonnas, as well as several undead creatures in the sanctum of Chemosh. In the sanctum of the Lord of Undeath, we discovered several gemstones containing imprisoned souls -- however, we lacked the appropriate knowledge at the time to discern whether they could be freed safely, so we set them aside for the meantime.

Finally, we found our way to the inner cloister of Morgion. My spell of flight carried me swiftly into the large chamber, as I charged at a shadowy indistinct figure who stood closest to the archway leading in. Behind this figure, upon or near a dais, we noted the elven vampiress, the lich from before, as well as the ogress we presumed to be Alecast.

Gwynnion and Tomas followed me in, and Samkin was following when he triggered the pit trap just outside the archway, falling inside. Gwynnion was still flying herself, and Tomas had taken similar measures to improve his maneuverability. Oskur tried to leap over the long pit, managing to catch the far lip of the pit. Adam and Alexis seemed to concoct some plan in which Glorius assumed the form of a warhorse, as they planned to leap the pit -- unfortunately, they all fell inside.

By this time, I glanced back, wondering where the rest of my companinons were, until I realized that they had all become tangled by the pit. A skulking rogue had struck Gwynnion from behind, piercing her viciously before retreating into the shadows of the chamber. Meanwhile, our front line consisted of myself and Tomas -- and Tomas will be the first to admit that he is not a fantastic warrior in melee, having specialized in archery to date. The shadowy figure before us, badly broken by Tomas' and my attacks, produced a wand, unleashing a magic foreign, although known to the Conclave: the black tentacles of Evard.

The ground erupted with the writhing mass of leathery tentacles, clutching at Tomas, while also dooming the shadowy figure to a self-inflicted death -- it seems obvious the figure, Chaos-tainted, was under the thrall of the servants of the dark gods of the temple. Meanwhile, the lich unleashed a choking nauseating cloud upon my companions, still struggling with the pit trap.

After a point, Alexis, Adam, and Oskur had made their way and had joined the battle. The elven vampiress strode forward, brandishing her medallion of faith again, casting unholy forces at the two Knights of the Sword. Where Alexis had fallen before the onslaught previously, Adam recoiled and began to flee in terror --

--I should perhaps note something of the history of Sir Crownguard. Several years ago, while on an adventure with several of his companions (the Black Robe wizard Laren, apprentice to Dalamar, who is in turn apprentice to Raistlin Majere; the White Robe Alysa Crownguard, his sister and now the Eye of Solinari; Varice, currently a mercenary warlord), Adam's party had been attacked by group of powerful undead led by a dwarven vampire priest of Chemosh. Adam had fallen, while his party had been trying to retreat, and Adam had been cursed for a time, via the unholy prayers of the undead dwarf, to become an undead festering horror subservient to the vampire's will -- or what is commonly known as a skeletal warrior. Adam seemed damned until his companions, minus the opportunistic and venal Laren, had returned, fought a desperate battle against their undead companion, and been granted a second chance thanks to a very rare elixir of life.

The experience, however, had taken its toll on him. Where once he had been in the full prime of his youthful, hearty, Solamnic bluster, his health was much more wan now, and his torment had left him much more melancholy than before his experience. Considering that the vampiress had invoked such unholy powers against him again, it is understandable that terror and panic gripped him.

I have noticed that such invocations seem to typically have their most profound impact on those particularly touched by a god. Alexis has, in the past, invoked the power of Kiri-Jolith against undead and even draconians in the past. Undead are, of course, touched by Chemosh, Lord of Undeath, while the draconians were created from the eggs of good dragons -- the childer of Paladine -- made corrupt by infusing the spirits of abishai from the Abyss -- the realm of the Dark Queen -- into their being. In contrast, Alexis, Gwynnion, and Adam have all been particularly blessed by the Solamnic Trinity or Solinari. How exactly these invocations function or affect others is an interesting issue to perhaps explore at some point, although priests seem to have an innate knack for such things. Most likely, the invocation of the gods' power is at the heart of it, and I suspect understanding why it works would require one to understand why the gods are gods.

As it was, the battle was not in our favor at first. As we continued pressing, the tide began to turn. After dispatching the shadowy figure, I attacked the lich that had so inconvienced Samkin earlier, doing my best to ignore the shield of fire that struck me for every blow I landed upon the undead magician-priest. However, the lich quickly fell to my blows, its spirit likely returning to its phylactery, its soul object, wherever that might be. By this point, Alexis had been pinned by three attackers -- apparently, several others had lain in wait out of sight at first -- and I went at the vampiress who had sent Adam in flight and who threatened to feast again on Alexis's blood.

Eventually, the battletide sided in our favor, as combatants were either slain, surrendered, or were beaten into unconsciousness. Alecast was captured and bound, so that she might stand trial in Solamnia. Once our trials were complete, we paused and rested, recovering from the furor of the day. Adam's prisoner had been manacled and bound by Tomas's artful hands, and we investigated what lay beyond, discovering Alecast's personal chambers and library.

After spending some time recuperating, we prepared to venture into the sanctum of Galen Dracos and Kryonisia, just beyond Alecast's chambers, behind a warded door. Gwynnion left Alecast within a prison of magical force, guarded by Samkin and Glorius. The rest of headed into the complex beyond.

Alexis and Adam noted the presence of a powerful evil underneath us after we left Alecast's wards -- something very evil and very much of Law. After descending several stairs, we came upon a junction room similar to what Gwynnion and I had seen in Mor-Danir. The first door we opened led into a radically different hall, which (thanks to Adam's practical approaches) we discerned was actually upon another plane -- the elemental plane of air. Another door led to a hall upon the plane of fire, and another we guessed to be somewhere upon the elemental plane of earth. Another door, which had been shattered and broken, leaving only the stone behind it, we guessed had at one time led to the plane of water.

We continued down one of the hallways upon our own plane, coming to a large chamber with draconic scrawl covering the walls. In the center of the chamber was a large frosted pool of water, in which, some 20-feet down, we noted the presence of several crystalline spheres.

I should note that from the moment we entered this section of the complex -- Dracos' old laboratories -- we had been struck by the very jagged and...strange archetecture. Oddly angled steps, stones, archways, and so forth. In the junction room, several golems had animated to bar our way, until Gwynnion had invoked Solinari, the god of white magic, commanding them to halt. After a moment, once they had halted, one of them literally fell apart into two halves, as if something had sliced through it.

I mention these oddities so that what follows might stand in some context. As we advanced towards the pool, Tomas prepared to fish out the spheres (which resembled gems), until I cautioned him to be wary. My thought had been that since Kryonisia had been the last known occupant of this place, and noting the frost in places around the pool, I thought that it might be unnaturally cold (since she is a white dragon). Tomas pulled out a short pole and prodded at the water, which did the most remarkable thing: it began to splash, only to slow as the small waves spread out from where he had struck the water, until they finally stopped. The water continued to exhibit this behavior, until finally tendrils of water formed and rose from the pool, forming a draconic-style head composed of water.

The head was actually a water elemental bound to the pool, and it was easily dealt with in the end. However, the water continued to act strangely, and my sense of the powerful force below us only increased my dread. Dracos had summoned some aspect of the Tobril in Mor-Danir, to guard one of his soul-orbs -- what had he summoned here, and what the hell was it doing now?

Tomas acquired the spheres, resorting ultimately to arcane means to do so. Meanwhile, we casually studied the scrawl on the wall, and Tomas seemed a bit eager to copy them down as well as he could. As far as we could immediately tell, Kyronisia had been trying to weave a magical effect that would reinforce her magic within this chamber.

Now, we began to notice the jumbled, cacophonic sounds of screaming coming from a vast stairwell at the far end of the room. Whatever the source of the screaming was, it was certainly unnatural. Between myself, Gwynnion, and Tomas's keen ears, we could discern that the screams were in Enochian, the celestial language of the Tobril -- but we could discern what exactly was being said, if it was even meant to be coherent. I began to fear that what was below was something of Law driven mad -- mad to the point that it might as well now be a very vulgar manifestation of Chaos, affecting reality around us in very frightening and dangerous ways.

We cautiously descended the stairs, coming to a vast underground chamber. A gigantic honeycomb of ice hung from the ceiling, resembling wild nightmares more than anything else. Whatever had been bound from the Tobril was within, and it was what twisted and sheared reality around us. The spirit was very very angry, as well, and I suspected that we would not have the same luck we had had in Mor-Danir.

I prepared my pattern weave spell, preparing myself as well as I could to try to penetrate the mystery of whatever it was I was seeing. Gwynnion, Adam, and Alexis offered what assistance they could, as I opened myself to the pattern -- such as it was -- around me. After several minutes, it became obvious...

Where in Mor-Danir Galen Dracos had summoned that symbol or idea from the Tobril that embodied communities protecting their own charges, here Dracos had summoned and bound that idea and symbol from the Tobril that represented passage and travel, whether from one room to another in one's house, or from this world to another, or from one time to another, or from one thought to another. One of its original wards had failed at some point, and it had awakened. However, it was still bound to this place and trapped in solitude, it had begun lashing out in the hopes of destroying the ward that held it here -- it was very pissed, and it was a very very naughty idea.

I should, perhaps, point out the obvious. Yes, Galen Dracos summoned two (at least) symbols/aspects of the Tobril into this world and bound them. However, when he did so, it is not as if communities stopped protecting their own or we couldn't go from one room to another in our homes. Travel between worlds, even, while more problematic, is still possible. On the one hand, yes, the spirit at Mor-Danir's absence may have helped further Istar's madness, Solamnia's compliance, and so forth, but since the Cataclysm many communities have been very interested in protecting themselves. But, the people of Krynn, and likely the Tobril, adapted. At the same time, for a time, where once the means for more arcane means of travel had once been a part of the Tobril, its absence likely forced reality to resort to Chaotic means to allow such magical feats of travel, furthering Chaos in the world. And so on.

Were this entity to breach the ward that bound it to this place -- for it had the ability to cause space, time, and objects to shift and transpose (thus the shearing effect and anomalies we had encountered) -- it would likely cause a great deal of damage in the world beyond. And whereas one could talk to the sense of community imprisoned at Mor-Danir, how could we communicate with the essence of passage? I will admit that I became rather distressed and frightened -- how does one fight off time and space turned against you? Only an archmage could probably do so, I thought, and even Gwynnion looked dubious of her prospects.

As I shared my findings with my companions, including Adam, Alexis was fascinated by the strange icy strands latticed about around us. She experimented with a bit of ice that seemed semi-solid, almost gelatinous to her, when another thought went through my mind. As corrupted as it was, one could only guess what would happen were this spirit to attain freedom and somehow return to the Tobril in its current state. Indeed, it was possible that it could infect the rest of the Tobril with its madness. This "infectious" thought made me highly paranoid, and I warned Alexis not to play with the ice any further and to certainly not take anything from this chamber. Images of pieces of the infection escaping came to mind, and I did not want to risk anything.

We were about to retreat to consider our options when I noticed several scurrying spider-like creatures along the walls of this cavernous chamber -- the living ward Galen Dracos had created to keep the spirit contained. They had been approaching, but we quickly departed before either side developed any ideas of doing anything untoward to the other.

Certainly we faced a dilemma. A brief interrogation of Alecast, as well as input from our other prisoner, a Black Dragonarmy officer named Anya, revealed that apparently they had used the shadowy figure as a probe into the complex, believing that using someone Chaos-tainted would allow them further access than they could, as weave users and agents of Law. This had apparently awakened the spirit from dormancy, and it had begun to lash out at the living wards. Anya proved rather helpful, interested in doing what she could to avoid the thing below escaping. Alecast, however, quickly became uncooperative, feeling that since she would likely be dead either way, eventually, she saw no reason to assist us.

We began pouring over her research notes on the matter, since she had apparently been trying to find a way to correct the problem, believing that it would escape well within the year. However, her research was highly incomplete, and we began to consider further options. The spheres from the pool, it seems, had been soulstones of some kind, used as "living" books by Dracos and Kryonisia in their research. Faced with a serious danger, Alexis, Gwynnion, and I began...pouring over the souls, looking for information that could help us.

Our current situation was apparently nothing like Galen Dracos had intended. The renegade had originally summoned the essence so that his researchers could discover a way to produce something like it, totally under their control, which they could use to travel almost instantaneously to whereever they wanted: teleportation at will, doors capable of transporting armies across Ansalon in the span of minutes, and so forth. Dracos had parcelled out pieces of the research to different minions, while keeping the keys (so to speak) to himself.

Although we learned much of the original nature of the complex -- the essence had been such that it had to be bound simultaneously on five planes of existence, thus the elemental passageways -- we learned little of practical use that we hadn't already known. Dracos had bound it to a physical shell, to help anchor it to the planes in question; however, if we simply destroyed the shell, the essence would be free to do whatever it wanted.

During our time pouring over the souls imprisoned -- eh... -- Oskur decided to sit in the fireplace in a trance. I am not sure what exactly he was trying to accomplish, although he emerged and muttered a few cryptic statements, apparently granted to him by whatever spirits he associates with, and then he returned to the burning embers to sit some more.

Finally, Gwynnion began a long and devout invocation to Solinari, beseeching the god of white magic to grant whatever wisdom she could in this matter. A spectral form appeared of a beautiful elven woman, who I assumed looked as if she was Gwynnion's mother. Gwynnion, through whatever sorcery, had called some aspect of Solinari to grace us with her divine presence, assuming the spectral form of how she appeared to Gwynnion -- as her mother.

Solinari's eyes were shrouded from the chamber in question, but she offered what advice she was able and free to offer. Ultimately, healing or otherwise "correcting" the corrupt essence was beyond our capabilities, barring dubious self-sacrifice, and our best bet was to destroy it -- the Tobril had managed to continue going on about its business for 1,500 years without it. We would have to attack its manifestation simultaneously on all five planes at once, while anchoring its aspect on this plane magically so that it could not disperse or escape. As its form was destroyed on the other planes, the part of its essence there would shift to the anchored form, until that anchored form was destroyed and prevented from escaping. Its spiritual essence, purged of corruption, would dissipate into the rest of reality.

Of course, we faced a daunting task. We began casting about for further ideas, until we finally resolved that we would require additional assistance from others. Gwynnion made contact with her brother, the Master of Goodlund, who in turn began making what preparations he could, recruiting the Master of the Guardians of the White Robes, the warrior-wizard Ethan of Sancrist. At the same time, further inquiries were made, and it was agreed that we would give ourselves 40 days to prepare five bands to descend into the complex to destroy an idea.

Thus resolved, Gwynnion teleported many of us back to civilization to tend to various tasks in preparation for our descent into chaos (for it might as well be such). In Palanthus, as I studied various spells and learned how to channel further arcane energies through Ilrethil, Adam brought Alecast to justice. After several days, she was led to the gallows after having been gagged (for the Knights had long ago learned to keep the condemned from casting curses as they died) and left bereft of magic. A Knightly Council was called to judge the success of Adam's quest to join the Order of the Rose, and his family's prestige and his own personal standing saw to it that the High Warrior, High Justice, and High Clerist were all present. As Adam reported what had occurred on his long trek to the frozen south, and of his adventure in the lost city of Kakartha, the opportunity presented itself for me to speak, and I invoked my considerable verbal talents to affirm what he had related since I had met him, while also praising his courage, wisdom, and sense of justice, and I emphasized how Adam's actions had embodied the principles of all three Orders of Knights. After a resounding rapping on the table, Adam was dismissed. Within the week, they announced that he had been found worthy, and Adam Crownguard was initiated into the Holy Order of the Rose as a Keeper of Roses.

Adam has expressed his thanks heartily to me for my role in his quest, especially when I made sure to subdue Alecast rather than to simply slay her -- I remember well the sharp sound of the flat of Ilrethil's blade striking her twice in the head from either side. He stated that he wanted to present to me a gift as a sign of his appreciation, but his original idea he deemed inappropriate. He had meant to give me a magical blade that was a bane to green dragons, so that I could use it to drive Cyan Bloodbane out of Silvenesti, as well as the Green Dragonarmy, but I diplomatically explained that the Dragonarmy had already been driven out by the Speaker of the Star's forces, and that I had already sent Cyan out of Silvanost thanks to Ilrethil's hungry edge. Of course, I assume that Adam had been engaged on the front and had not heard the news from Silvenesti, or had perhaps been on his quest when our victory had been achieved. Although, as I think of it, the blade he offered would likely have been ineffectual against Bloodbane, for Galen Dracos had made him and the other dragons he had "fathered" immune to magicks that are normally inimical to dragonkind. However, Adam's appreciation was genuine, and I saw no reason to detract from the sentiment or the moment more than was unfortunately appropriate.

Otherwise, I have learned that apparently the dwarven mastersmith Thorn has also been recruited for our assault upon Passage (I have no other name for the spirit at present), and I have made mention to my cousin Lil'Athrial for her assistance. We are hoping to keep our assault as secret as possible until after the task is complete, to avoid outsiders from interfering for their own purposes.

Most of my time is currently spent in meditation with Ilrethil, studying spells, and in empowering enchantments upon myself so that I can now always see the invisible, possess darkvision, arcane sight, can always read magical writings, understand any written language, I have warded myself from arrows and missiles, and I can always sense the shadow of Chaos. Gwynnion has been researching the matter further at Kakartha, and in but a short time after this is over, I must journey to Nightlund to meet with Lord Soth. Of course, I have made sure that I have said nothing of this to Samkin, Alexis, or Adam. My goals are clandestine in regards to Soth, although not so much to cause any problem for him -- as far as I am concerned, if Kitiara is not under Galen Dracos' thrall, that's good, and if they can thwart Ariakus, all the better. Still, it is better to not draw attention from Dracos' minions, and it is better not to embroil the Knights with Lord Soth in his home, no matter what offers of safe passage I have for being related to Soth -- or for Gwynnion, given that apparently her father's last name is also Soth. I do not think I can afford Samkin to say the wrong thing, and I know that Alexis would stare at Soth enough that there would be them.

-- approaching early spring, 362 AC

Date: 2004-02-03 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
During our time pouring over the souls imprisoned -- eh... -- Oskur decided to sit in the fireplace in a trance. I am not sure what exactly he was trying to accomplish, although he emerged and muttered a few cryptic statements, apparently granted to him by whatever spirits he associates with, and then he returned to the burning embers to sit some more.


Too true...


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