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We returned to Kakartha in preparation to attack the concept of Passage. Five teams had been assembled. The elemental plane of earth would be assaulted by a force led by Lil'Athrial and Deandra of the Red Robes, while the plane of fire would be led by Lanthinel and his Tower of Goodlund force. The plane of water fell to Alysa Crownguard and her troops, as well as Raistlin Majere (who tracked down the abducted Thorn) and the dwarven master smith. The plane of air, meanwhile, would be attacked by thirteen warriors loyal to Oskur, as well as other attackers.

Meanwhile, our task was to penetrate the sanctum on Krynn, anchor the essence there, contact the other teams so they could defeat the bound form of Passage in the other realms, and then we would destroy the twisted part of the Tobril after all of its essence had been drawn to our quarry. Upon receiving word from Alysa, since the door to the plane of water had been destroyed from this end, who had traveled to the site of the aquatic prison of Passage in a more roundabout manner, we entered the chambers leading to the prison on this world.

In the almost two months we had been gone, the warping from the spirit's attempts to free itself were much more pronounced. At the same time, the frantic activity of the living warders -- the spider-constructs Galen Dracos had created -- had been forced further and further outwards, as we came across semi-frozen patches of webbing here and there much sooner than last time. As we passed, we noted strange reflections in the ice as we walked by -- in some, the timing of the reflection seemed to be off by seconds, while in another, the five Dragon Highlords marched by in our stead. At one point, as we moved in a protective formation -- suggested by Adam after consultation with Samkin, who was beginning to feel that perhaps he should use tactics in a battle more than rushing forward blindly -- a dark presence passed over us, and Alexis passed out, falling to the ground. Casting about, I noticed a spectral, demonic hand reaching through one of the mirror-like fragments of webbing, clawing at Alexis's prone body. Breaking formation, and realizing that the dark spirit, invisible without arcane means of detection, was one of the fetch -- dark spirits of the Abyss that lurked at the edges of our world, around mirrors and other reflective surfaces, ready to trap and imprison the unwary in the hells of the Dark Queen. We succeeded in driving them off, as Gwynnion invoked Solinari's light against the foul things.

However, during our brief encounter with the fetch (for others had lurked nearby, as well), Oskur had broken several pieces of the reflective webbing. The living warders approached now, intent to repair the damage, and to also eliminate our presence. They appeared as large (but not nightmarishly huge) spiders made of similar material. Adam and I took care of the first two swarms, as another fell upon Alexis, biting and stinging her. Gwynnion invoked Solinari again, turning aside the constructs of renegade magic created by Galen Dracos. More arrived, but between a spell of cold I unleashed and Adam's attacks, the swarms were dispatched rather easily.

This done, we proceeded further into the complex, striding over broad sections of webbing. We came to the threshhold, a magical barrier between what was outside of the ward, and the heart of the prison, where our quarry lay. We passed through with minimal problems, finding ourselves in another world entirely.

We stood on a platform halfway up a 600-foot tall series of platforms that became smaller as they ascended towards the zenith. Away from the "tower," we made out a fierce snowstorm raging in the distance, all about us, while strange eldritch fires danced in the unfettered abyss below us. We chose to ascend, assuming that the zenith would be the focal point of the prison, the resting place where the physical shell of the twisted Tobril spirit. After several minutes of climbing stairs, passing large mirrors opening into strange vistas and fabulous harbors not of this "world," our own, or any other we knew, we reached the summit.

Five spiral stairs, set at equidistant points, ascended to the final platform. In the center of the platform, bound by a circle of binding and summoning, was a flaming pit with a central platform. Upon the platform, connected to the rest by three narrow bridges, was a large rune-covered stone. Bound by chains and snaking tendrils of metal-like flesh, was a gaunt, emaciated, likely undead figure -- a man, as far as we could tell: the physical shell that bound Passage in this place. Gwynnion cast a spell known as dimensional anchor, anchoring the figure to only this plane, and she then contacted the other parties, so they might proceed in their assaults.

For a time, we examined the figure from a distance. Its mind reached out towards us, begging us to help him, focusing much of his attention on Samkin. As we studied the man for a time, we gradually realized who it was. You see, we are not a heartless or pitiless band (although at times Samkin stretches the bounds of propriety and Tomas has been known to be mercenary at times), and Adam certainly wished to know if this was some innocent, bound to the spirit of Passage and tormented for centuries by Galen Dracos. Gwynnion cast a spell of legend lore to try to learn who it was -- for the figure seemed weak and fairly incommunicative -- and a single name came to her: Fistandantilus.

Fistandantilus. In the myths of Ansalon, three renegades stood above any other: Magius, Galen Dracos, and Fistandantilus. Magius, who had tested and began as a Red Robe, over the course of his life was Black Robe and renegade, before dying as a White Robe Wizard. Galen Dracos...I am sure I need not elaborate on his career. And Fistandantilus. Sometimes disparigingly dubbed "Fisty." Not much is honestly known about Fistandantilus. He studied initially as a Red Robed Wizard, learning some of the secrets of that Order, before changing his allegiance, serving Nuitari as a Black Robe. He had lived for centuries, and he was generally presumed to either be a lich or to have perfected some other means of extending his lifespan -- he had been a contemporary of Galen Dracos and Magius -- and many believed he was one of those primarily responsible for the Cataclysm, teaching weave magic to the priests of Istar in the days when they could no longer call upon the gods favor. He survived Istar's fall and in the days afterwards became a renegade. He led an army to capture the ancient arcane holdfast now dubbed Skullcap, where he met his "demise" it is said when a spell went awry and destroyed the armies and the surrounding countryside, half-melting the stone of the stronghold until it resembled a grinning skull more than a fortress.

Yet, here he was. We immediately knew that this was no innocent, tricked or trapped into serving as the spirit's physical shell -- no, apparently Fistandantilus had studied under Galen Dracos for a time, and at some point -- for we cannot be sure how time and space might function for someone containing the spirit of Passage -- he had been bound here by his teacher. Immediately, we became much more suspicious and he seemed to stop feigning quite the degree of weakness we had first encountered. I kept my eyes upon him, studying the magical auras around him, in case he tried to work some mischief -- we could not tell how much of his sorcery he still possessed. He tried moral reasoning with Samkin, and when Samkin belittled him, telling him he would soon be dead, the undead mage wove some magic that caused Samkin to vanish for several seconds, despite Gwynnion's attempts to counter his spell. When Samkin returned, the Solamnic Knight was changed. The spikes on his armor, crafted by Thorn, were gone, and this Samkin was much better groomed and sedate. What was even more stunning was when he easily quoted sections of the Measure for Adam -- something "our" Samkin could never have done.

At that point, we chose to break line of sight with the wizard, save for Gwynnion and Adam, who would try to counter any further mischief as well as they could until we heard confirmation from the last team that they had been successful. Fistandantilus seemed quite aware of the other realms and the battles that waged there, offering commentary for Gwynnion and Adam. Finally, as the last battle -- upon the plane of earth -- concluded, we prepared ourselves for our battle with Fistandantilus.

At this point, he drew himself up to his full height, and the rags he had been wearing became much finer, black velvet. I had noted that he had been weaving illusions about his prison, and was still wary, if trying to maintain a healthy confidence and even arrogance. Finally, we leapt at him, with my blow falling first. Fistandantilus was Chaos-tainted, and Ilrethil bit deep into his side. Alexis and Oskur joined me on the central platform, while Gwynnion remained in the rear, with Adam protecting her. As the battle raged, Swiftsilver fell prey to the ward surrounding the platform, falling catatonic to the ground. Suddenly, while standing next to the large rune-carved stone Fistandantilus seemed bound to, I realized that an illusion had cloaked its true nature: moaning faces and writhing features covered the large stone, and it was then I realized that Fistandantilus was not the physical shell, but only the guiding will behind the bound spirit of Passage. Galen Dracos had needed a guiding intelligence for the spirit, a role he had forced upon Fistandantilus. No, the true physical shell was the stone itself, and as I called out this information to my companions, I began bringing Ilrethil down upon the large stone.

Gwynnion, Oskur, Alexis, and myself focused our attention on the stone, while Samkin and Glorius struggled to keep the wizard occupied. I remember he unleashed a cone of cold against us, invoking the death magicks of the Black Robe's spell secrets against us, as well. But a few moments later, flaming meteors struck all about us. Suddenly, Gwynnion cast a spell, a specialized enchantment called gate seal, upon the stone. The spell sealed a magical gate normally, preventing its use. By this time, Fistandantilus had been forced into the stone, and he was trapped there when the gate seal struck. Suddenly, the 600-foot tall tower began to shudder and collapse -- we had noted earlier that the nature of the realm had been determined to a large degree by Fistandantilus's will, especially when Alexis had invoked a spell that had...empowered her into a living embodiment of her faith, as her will began to compete with the wizard's will. However, the wizard was now bound within the stone, unable to exert his influence, and that influence had been maintaining the tower to a significant degree.

I had been held aloft thanks to a spell of flying, a rather commonplace state of affairs for me these days in the middle of battle, and Gwynnion had also been flying. However, the rest of my party began falling into an uncertain abyss with the crumbling remains of the tower. Alexis and Samkin held on to the stone, while Adam and Glorius took to wing in a rather admirable display of riding prowess (I would say equestrian, but...). Thinking quickly, I conjured a wall of force to catch Alexis, Samkin, and the stone, while Gwynnion did likewise to catch the plummeting Oskur, who by chance, had fallen away from the rest of the party. However, while Alexis and Samkin landed (safely, if painfully), one of the mirrors we had noted earlier had swallowed Oskur up during his descent. Adam and Glorius dove through after the King of Ergoth, vanishing.

Alexis and Samkin continued to chip away at the stone, which by this point was badly damaged. Tendrils, similar to what we had seen connecting to Fistandantilus, sprung out, entangling the two Knights. I dove down and drove Ilrethil into the stone again and again, while Samkin loosed a ray of white-hot heat from his eyes (a power of the circlet he had recently acquired) into the stone, as Alexis thrust her ring of the ram at the thing. Finally, the stone shattered, with shards falling away from the invisible platform the Knights had fallen upon, and falling through a myriad of rapidly shifting mirror-portals below us. As we regrouped, we noted that the pocket dimension was collapsing, falling upon itself without a guiding will. Gwynnion had the four of us present hold hands as she prepared a spell of plane shifting, and Gwynnion and Alexis vanished.

Samkin and I remained in the rapidly shrinking realm. It was then I realized that during my initial melee with Fistandantilus, Gwynnion had tried to cast another dimensional anchor upon the wizard, who had dispelled her earlier anchor. She had narrowly missed him...and hit me. I had thought little of it at the time, occupied, and the beam had done no damage. However, it had barred me from escape.

Still, why had Samkin not vanished. He seemed to be concentrating, engaging in some mental exercise that escaped me for a time, until I realized something...

During the confusion of the stone's final moments, I had not immediately realized that after a point, when the stone was damaged, Samkin suffered a corresponding injury. After a point, however, his wounds had miraculously healed. After the stone had been shattered, he had some minor wounds -- wounds that had wonderously healed before our eyes over the course of several seconds. The stone, bereft of a guiding intelligence outside of it (for Fistandantilus had been trapped within) had been seeking a new will in either Samkin or Alexis. Apparently, it had achieved this in Samkin...

I was in the presence of Sir Samkin Stoutheart, a newly born minor divinity of the Tobril, Lord of Passages...

I was, admittedly, rather worried at this point.

However, despite whatever powers he now possessed, Samkin had not the mental or arcane discipline to fully control (or even understand) them. The look of fevered, frustrated concentration upon his face was proof enough that he was desperately trying to deal with an awareness previously unknown to him -- or, he was desperately trying to develop such an awareness as the seconds passed as the pocket realm collapsed further and further upon itself.

On the edges of the realm, I could make out shearing portals coming into existence for brief moments to a uncountable number of possible realms -- and for a time, I considered taking my chances by diving into some portal to some realm, any realm but this one that would cease to exist in a few more minutes. However, there was an alternative -- I could hope Samkin -- this Samkin from some other world, this well-groomed and morally upright Sir Stoutheart -- could muster the will to accomplish whatever it was he was trying to do.

I needed to remove the dimensional anchor, but I had no spells of dispelling readied. As I rummaged through my arcane scrolls, I found one, prepared years ago, before we had even found Huma's tomb. I read the scroll aloud, the arcane writing in my hand fading, but the anchor remained. I was running out of options, when I realized I had recently channeled such a spell into Ilrethil, and throwing what little caution I had left to the enveloping ethers, I touched Samkin with the blade -- for Gwynnion had also cast a gateseal upon the stone, whose power was now bound to Samkin, who had been "anchored" -- and finally, for an agonizing moment, I was nowhere.

Suddenly, I was standing next to Oskur, Adam, Glorius, Swiftsilver (who Glorius had rescued earlier from her own plummet into the abyss), our Samkin (who was drunk, half-naked, carrying his armor in a bag over his shoulder), and two other people. One of them was a red-headed, grey-eyed, man of slight features that resembled Gwynnion, with a black tressyrm upon his shoulder. Standing next to him was a woman that looked like Alexis, but she seemed more weary and worn and older. As we took stock of the situation, the man identified himself as Daniel Devir, brother of Lanthinel, and Master of the Guardians of the White Robes -- covered in red rose tattoos. The woman claimed to be Alexis, and seemed to recognize everyone but me. However, we had little time for these confusions, for we soon realized we were very near the docks of the port of Balifor, a Dragonarmy supply point. In the distance, draconians noted our presence and began approaching, and we quickly took to Glorius and Swiftsilver, escaping the enemy city.

Apparently, Samkin, Lord of Passage, had not been quite right on in whatever he had tried to do. We had some version of Gwynnion -- Daniel, but not the Chaos-tainted Daniel of our world. And we had some version of Alexis, but not the Alexis we knew. In Daniel's world, the year was 373 AC -- roughly 11 years from our present, and Galen Dracos had consumed the Dark Queen after Ariakus had summoned her to this world, and Dracos had slain or driven off most of the rest of the gods and was rapidly devouring the rest of the world. The Alexis we were with, meanwhile, came from a world where the Dark Queen had entered the world, but Galen Dracos had not consumed her, and the Dragonarmies had laid waste to most of Ansalon. The Conclave had been all but destroyed, reduced to the ruins of Wayreth, and but 1,000 Knights survived, under her command as the Queen of Sancrist.

Taking stock of these revelations, as well as being concerned for the whereabouts of our own Gwynnion and Alexis, we flew towards the Tower of Goodlund, the nearest of the Towers of High Sorcery, in the hopes that Ke'Lanthinel could shed light on what had occured. Meanwhile, as dark approached, we noted the presence of a new constellation in the sky -- a constellation that resembled the rune of Galen Dracos, Lord of Chaos.

-- spring, 362 AC


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August 2006

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