Sol'sora

47. Time Bites Back

While Fen sleeps amongst the leaves near Bob’s house, the rest of the party discusses visiting Hell so that Yannic can get his right hand back. They wait several hours, and at midnight, a bat-winged creature delivers a box containing a gatestone. The party all touch the gatestone and are transported to a freezing cold building, where Keanvari is waiting for them resignedly.

Keanvari asks Yannic what he’d like his hand to look like, but Yannic forgoes a cool pirate hand and asks for a mirror of his left hand. Keanvari says he can return us to where we were, but only one at a time. Betha goes first, taking a 20 foot fall from where the Rod of Security had created the paradisiacal bubble. Kaiva follows, as does Remi. A few minutes later, Yannic falls out of the air into a blanket, after apparently conversing politely with Keanvari.

Remi casts Sending to ask Fen, “Are you alive? Where are you?” Fen, in the midst of a dream about lots of gold, replies, “Go away, I’m busy!” An hour later, Fen hears a loud clatter and crash, but she goes back to sleep.

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It takes the party a couple hours after contacting Fen to find Bob’s house – or the remains of it. Bob’s house has exploded, and there are strange ripples throughout the clearing. Kaiva punches one, and it materializes into a pair of strange dark eyeless creatures with crystals around their waists and staves in hand. Betha, casting True Strike, senses that they are some kind of zombie creature, and having to do with time? Yannic uses Detect Magic, and discovers they read as being a strange mix of abjuration, transmutation, and necromancy.

The time ghost Kaiva punched into existence attempts to attack her, and when one of the attacks hits, they both disappear for 30 seconds. When they come back, they circle each other for a bit, freeze for 30 seconds, and then the ghost vanishes. The other time ghost moves through the same motions that the one fighting Kaiva did. The party backs out of the clearing, and look for Fen. Fen tries to cross the clearing, but she bumps into a beetle-spider time ghost that tears into her shoulder. She escapes the clearing, but not before bumping into another time ghost.

Remi attempts to speak with Bob using Sending, and he gets back a garbled and confused reply: I don’t know where I am. Fen asks the tree she’d been sleeping against for information about the explosion, and the tree lets her know Speak with Plants would be helpful, because it has a lot to say. Remi casts the spell, and learns that the some of the other banishing team were here earlier. After Bob ran into his house, the diviner had rushed into the house, and two of the banishing squad went in to drag the diviner out, at which point the house exploded and the time ghosts appeared. Remi remembers vaguely that the diviner, although he introduced himself as Emmett, was not named Emmett while they were in school together.

Betha explains why she doesn’t want to ask Sivoreen if they can stay in the Feywild. Since it’s now past 2 in the morning, the party decides that the best way to avoid Soulfire is to walk away from Floy and the tower, southward, stopping halfway between Floy and Broadwater. Betha finds the hill over the cave where the goblins had taken Bob in the previous timeline, and the party hunkers down to wait for dawn. Slowly, slowly, the sun comes up over the horizon, and there are no green flashes of Soulfire in the sky in any direction. The party stays, watching, until 6am, at which point they decide that investing in some rope would probably be a good idea.

On the way back to Floy, they stop at Bob’s house, to see if it’s approachable. It is decidedly not, since there are many more time ghosts around now, including a large winged figure who appears to be carrying a flaming longsword.

The party skirts around Bob’s house and head into Floy, where they do a bit of shopping. Yannic buys a few vials and a pair of scissors. Remi locates a jeweler’s, where he purchases a locket to hold his scrap of Ondelin’s clothing. He also exchanges some of the gems from the Therris vault for gold, which Remi and Betha use to buy infinite rope at a general store. Fen and Kaiva have also gone looking for something to use as a Friendship Rope, so they ask around for ‘fancy rope.’ They’re directed to a sex shop, where a friendly salesperson walks them through much of the store’s inventory. They eventually leave after purchasing some lengths of silk rope and a pair of solidly-made manacles.

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46. Bitchslapped by a God

There are a whole lot of Andraki’s folk outside: hyenas, hyenapeople, and a large white once-a-hyena creature that has a scorpion tail and dripping pointy teeth. The hyenapeople batter at the door of the tower, to no avail. The party tries to convince Fen to get into the tower after testing to see whether living creatures can pass through the arrowslit windows. Fen argues that they’ll have to bring her in by force. As the party talks through the plan with Fen, Remi notices that there’s a flock of birds fast approaching.

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Then, the scorpion-hyena rushes towards the tower, and Remi and Fen spot the tiny green frog riding the creature. Remi quickly polymorphs Fen into a hummingbird as the scorpion-hyena starts scaling the tower. Betha tries some offensive magic on the creature, but it makes it close enough to the first window for the Andraki-frog to hop onto the windowsill, at which point Remi uses the Rod of Security to transport everyone inside the tower (except Andraki) to a paradisiacal version of the Therris estate.

Outside in the forest, Fen hides from the approaching birds. Andraki shouts as the birds swarm. One of the birds, a crow, finds and screams at Fen. In response, Fen flies onto its head to groom it. The bird suffers this indignity, and then all the birds stop flying and land wherever is closest.

In paradise, a crack appears several feet from Remi, and Andraki pushes through, in her divine form. Her skin is spotted, and she sports a pair of curled horns and a tail. After Betha fails to banish the demon goddess, Andraki draws her bow on Yannic, who asks, “What can we do for you?” Andraki has no reply and no humor in her expression, for once. Kaiva pulls out the glass sword, which is humming, and hesitantly steps toward Andraki.

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Betha casts Detect Thoughts on Andraki, and overhears a telepathic conversation between the twins. Andraki wants to kill everyone, and Keanvari would rather Yannic didn’t die. The goddess shoots Yannic’s right hand off with a bolt of painless black crackling energy, leaving a cauterized stump. The black staff he’d been holding falls to the ground, and Yannic screams.

Meanwhile, Fen continues to groom Keanvari’s crow self, and she hears him say, “I can be patient.” The birds fly off, and Fen attempts to get Keanvari to follow her to Bob’s house. He doesn’t.

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Yannic yells at Andraki, “You could have asked!!!” and Kaiva rushes towards Andraki, landing a blow on the goddess using Lord (Loch) Kasdall’s Blade. Betha overhears the twins agreeing to back off at the same time before Detect Thoughts ends. Andraki puts away her bow, slaps Kaiva, and leaves the way she came, leaving the crack hanging in midair.

Fen sees the bird on whose head she’d been sitting fly towards the tower, and she follows. The tower has a massive singe mark on the wall, and there’s a black crackling crack in the air, out of which a frog hops. The frog and bird begin to argue for some long minutes, and Fen eavesdrops.

From inside paradise, Betha watches the twins gesticulate angrily, and then there’s a flash of silver. The tower and its clearing have moved, and the twins along with it. The hyenapeople went with the tower’s clearing, and Fen, convinced everyone else is dead, tries to head for Bob’s house.

Those in paradise decide that it’s best to stay in the space created by the Rod of Security for at least the length of a long rest, so they set up watches. Remi and Yannic sit on watch together, and Yannic scrawls a note to Kean.

After being lost for a good hour, Fen reverts to her halfling form. She confers with a tree about the tower and her location, and then heads towards town by way of Bob’s house, to see if she can intercept Bob on his way home.

During the second watch, a pebble flies through the crack in paradise, hitting both Kaiva and Betha in the face. Betha pokes her head through the crack and sees a crow who offers her an envelope addressed to Yannic. She tells the crow she’s not going to wake Yannic up for him, but she takes the envelope. The crow leaves, slowly. Kaiva unsuccessfully tries to convince Betha they should open the letter before handing it to Yannic.

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In the forest, Fen has encountered Bob, and she explains the situation. The two walk back towards Bob’s home, drinking heavily from the bottles of alcohol Bob’s carrying in a large sack.

Upon waking, Remi goes in search of an oven, and he bakes up some beautiful bread. Betha hands Yannic the letter, and he reads it after breakfast. The letter is a formal apology from Keanvari for Yannic’s loss of a hand. He is offering to transport Yannic to Hell at midnight, so he can replace Yannic’s hand.

When Bob and Fen approach Bob’s house just before sundown, Bob stops just before entering the clearing. Andraki’s creatures are all over, so Fen and Bob hide among the trees for a while, drinking and waiting for sundown. Finally, Fen helps Bob sneak through part of the clearing so he can get to his house to hide the Last Laugh. Fen settles down for a nap in the leaves, hiding in plain sight.

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45. Froggy Fears Confirmed

When we arrive yet again in Floy, we see a group of four fancily dressed Banishers using the water-powered elevator to get to Upper Floy. One of the four spots us and makes grabby hand motions towards us before the apparent leader hauls him back onto the platform. Remi recognizes the one who saw us as a divination wizard from the university.

We wait for the elevator to come back down, and by the time we reach Upper Floy, the other banishers are nowhere to be seen. After some waffling about the best way to figure out where the tower is, we drop in the Step Back Inn, where Bob is busy drinking. We update him a bit, and ask him where the tower is. Bob says he didn’t bother finding out this morning, but we could wait until sunset.

We figure the other banishers are also headed to the tower, so we poke our heads out of the inn and hear everyone talking about the fancy looking people. We follow the trail into the forest, and Fen surreptitiously pops Lester out of his pocket dimension. As we catch up to the other banishers, we can see that every so often, they’re stopping and correcting their course, so it seems that they’re using the divination wizard’s magic to guide their way.

The leader of the other banishing squad is a 16 or 17 year old with a surly disposition, The diviner seems dumbstruck. The other two seem pleasant enough? The diviner stares and stares and stares at whoever in our group tries to speak to him. Their leader is impatient to get back to banishing whatever extraplanar beings are in this forest, but the diviner is fixated, seeing gods know what when he stares at us. He says that everything’s wrong, and that everything/one is doomed. He warns us that time will fight back.

Eventually, the diviner seems to give up and walks off through the forest, with the rest of his team trooping after him. We part ways with the other group, having decided that our goals are not exactly aligned – the majority of us don’t want to meet Andraki, and they seem to be tracking her (and a couple celestials) down. Before they leave, however, Remi manages to convince their leader that they should really be looking for fiends instead of the celestials. As they leave, we learn their leader’s name, which jogs our collective memory. The grumpy kid is one of the children Yannic, Remi, Fen, and Betha saved approximately 10 years ago on Banfiend.

Fen and Kaiva turn to the trees for directions to the tower. It takes an hour or so, but we do find the clearing in which the tower is located for the next half hour. We enter the tower, closing the doors behind us, just in case Andraki’s out there somewhere. Once upstairs, we close all the portal doors. In Undercommon, Fen asks whether Morthred is in Bob’s heart, and she hears a faint murmur from within. Kaiva wants to free Morthred, but Remi and Betha argue that doing so could kill Bob. Remi offers a compromise: if the world goes to shit again, we can come back to free Morthred ‘cause it won’t matter anymore.

When the party gets back downstairs by the tower’s doors, they realize that there’s no way to unlock the doors from the inside. It takes 3 hours for Betha to use her strength and lockpicks to open the doors, only to find Andraki sitting right outside, in frog form.

Betha pulls everyone out of the tower, and she and Kaiva try to close the doors before Andraki can get in. Andraki casts Hold Person, paralyzing the two. Fen introduces herself and tells Andraki they know each other in a different future, hence Lester. Andraki is curious. It’s when Fen mentions Andraki’s needle, the Last Laugh, that Andraki really is intrigued. She marches us back into the forest to retrieve the needle from Bob’s house, but Fen lets drop that Callum might be around, courtesy of Kean and Andra perhaps. Andraki rushes off to see about that, exacting a promise from Fen that they will meet outside Bob’s house an hour before sunset so Andraki can be reunited with her needle.

As soon as Andraki leaves, we jog for the tower, to close the doors. As we approach, we find Andraki’s hyenapeople all over the tower. Fen sits this fight out, not wanting to cross Andraki. We sneak up, dispatch a bunch of them with some excellent spellcasting from Remi and Yannic, and manage to secure the tower. However, in the process of doing so, we shut Fen outside of the tower and lock ourselves in again.

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44. Breakfast at Gorloris'

A brief spot of retconning: there are many people about, beginning to party in anticipation of Banfey.

We approach the guards by the entrance to Gorloris’ residence to ask for an audience with Gorloris. Remi explains that it’s a matter of great importance, and that we have a token from Floyrian the dragon that says he believes us. We convince the guard that they should ask Gorloris whether he should see us, and they carry away Bob’s scale.

We join the other supplicants in waiting around this early, early morning. Kaiva goes to sleep, and Yannic heads towards his home to visit his parents. However, on the way there, he checks his text-paper, and sees he’s received a reply from Kean saying he wants to meet up outside Gathering. Yannic asks for a time and location, and receives the teleportation sigil he vaguely recognizes but doesn’t quite remember. He goes, and arrives in Gehenna, where Kean pulls him into a house to question him.

Yannic tries to explain what happened with the time travel and the future past. Kean believes that Yannic believes what he’s saying, but he’s convinced that time travel isn’t possible. Kean says that Yannic’s mom has gone missing; Yannic shows him the sapphire that his dead mom is in. Yannic mentions that Andra was present in the future past, and Kean wants the deets, stat. Yannic tells him what the Lady of Learning told Kean about where and when to find Andra, but also says that she was dead when Kean found her.

Despite his disbelief, Kean says he’s here to help. He doesn’t think that Gorloris will be able to help (neither does Yannic). Kean warns Yannic to be careful and not to trust people, especially not people who look like him unless Yannic verifies that they are actually Kean and not Keanvari. Yannic asks if he can hug Kean. It is awkward. (and so so sad)

Yannic returns to the party, and shortly after his return, he feels someone attempting, with great difficulty, to scry on him. It feels like Kean? So he asks Kean on the text-paper if it was him, and Kean says it wasn’t. Hardly anyone feels like sleeping after that, so a bunch of us take a point of exhaustion.

A couple hours before dawn, we’re told that Gorloris will see us, at dawn. As dawn breaks, we’re ushered into Gorloris’ home to the protest of everyone who’s been waiting to see him. We’re brought to a room where Gorloris is eating breakfast, and he greets us politely and asks us what we know.

As our spokesperson, Remi explains that we’re from the future – a future in which an extraplanar council was able to set off destructive soulfire explosions using the teleportation system on Banfey. We name the members of the council, and we also mention that we saw Arctus once, at the party celebrating the success of the extraplanar council. Gorloris immediately wants as much information about his son as possible, and he asks Remi to drink a super truth serum so that he can verify the truth of our information. Remi acquiesces. Once we’ve given as much information as possible about Arctus, Gorloris offers us breakfast and some of the super truth serum. Yannic asks if Gorloris could see about helping restore Yannic’s mom back to life, and Gorloris takes the sapphire containing Yannic’s mom. Gorloris leaves to prepare a response to the extraplanar council’s plans, though we get the impression that what he most wants to do is to find (and save) his son.

We eat, and upon leaving Gorloris’ home, we split into three groups: Remi and Betha to the Therris home, Kaiva and Fen to the post office, and Yannic to his home. We agree to regroup in an hour.

Yannic finds his home the same as when he left, less than 24 hours ago (in this timeline). His father plies him with food, and complains that Yannic’s friend stopped by and didn’t want to eat. He also asks if Yannic has seen his mom? Yannic says she’s unwell but safe with Gorloris at the moment. He then tries to convince his dad that as a banisher, he’s been gifted with prophetic dreams that say Yannic’s parents should leave Gathering City for a vacation for Banfey. Yannic’s dad refuses to leave without his mom. Yannic eats some more, then heads to the rendezvous point.

In the Therris household, Betha naps in Remi’s room while Remi goes to explain things to a considerably less sleepy Grandma Therris. All over the Therris house, there are queues of people looking busy and holding papers, some reciting speeches. Remi finds his grandmother in her office, and he explains that he really did travel from a future because of the core under Gathering City. She says that the core can do that, and seems to be more believing this time. Remi also shows her the letter that Andraki brought him from a dead Grandma Therris, and she’s glad to know that she’s happy in the afterlife. Remi also tells her that there’s someone special to him that he’d like her to meet, and she’s excited to meet him. Remi and Grandma Therris hug a bunch, then Remi collects Betha, and they too head to the teleportation circle nearest the Therris home.

Meanwhile, Kaiva and Fen have found the post office and a long line of people waiting to send mail. Fen, being her stealthy self, sneaks to the front of the line and presents her letter to the clerk, who tells her that, for 2 silver pieces, the mail may or may not be delivered to Vega “in the forest”. Having gotten turned around while looking for the post office, Kaiva and Fen aren’t sure where to meet up with the rest of the party. They look around for a bit, and decide to get a drink. Kaiva attempts to pay for a whole bar’s patrons’ worth of drinks with 1 platinum piece, gets a dirty look, and the two of them scamper. With fifteen minutes to go until the party is due to leave, Kaiva uses the Sending Stone to ask Betha where to meet up. Finding their bearings, they head over to the designated teleportation circle.

For a brief moment, in separate parts of the city, Yannic and Fen each see shimmering in front of them. Fen punches the shimmering thing, which goes, “Ah” or “Ow”. Passing her hands through the thing again and again, its consistency fades from jam back into empty air. Kaiva believes she might have gained magical powers.

Yannic quickly casts Detect Magic on his shimmery thing, and he learns that the shimmering is an old magic and a strange combination of abjuration and transmutation magic. It seems as though something was trying to change a barrier. It could be someone trying to get through planes and barriers, which is difficult in this pre-Boom Boom Day state of things, or it could be something old that’s stuck.

Kaiva and Fen finally find the others, and after Kaiva briefly tests her magical powers, we all teleport back to Floy, in hopes of finding the tower before it moves.

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43. BACK IN TIME HOLY SHIT

After we orient ourselves a little, the party heads over to the administration office. Yannic privately looks through his belongings and discovers that he is only wearing one earring, his mom is still in the sapphire Kean gave him in the other timeline, and the Kean-communication papers are all blank. Kaiva rearranges her gear, then we brush off the dust on our clothes, and check in with the administrator.

She shares what she knows about the issue we were called to investigate, and we head off to Upper Floy to power-walk to Bob’s house. Remi plays his flutelute on the way there. When we get to the clearing of Bob’s house, we can hear that there’s something going on inside. Betha tries unsuccessfully to jump through the window a few times, while Fen and Kaiva kick the door in. Once inside, we see three goblins trying to drag Bob through the back door.

Kaiva and Remi handily kill the goblins, and Bob asks who we are. We tell him that we’re the Banishers, and he asks what we know. We look at each other, and Fen says, “Too much.” When we explain what we mean, he believes us, but he starts drinking heavily. He says we can keep his stuff, if we promise to give it back to him if he asks for it. We agree.

Bob tells us we should tell Gorloris, and we ask him to accompany us, so that we might have an easier time convincing Gorloris. Reluctant to leave his hoard, especially with the knowledge that Andraki is actively looking for her needle, Bob offers to give us something that will show Gorloris that Bob believes us, if we wait until sunset. We agree and take a short rest.

Fen takes some time to write a message to Vega to send via post, Yannic writes a message to Kean via the message paper, and Remi thinks about using Sending to contact Ondelin. Fen summons Lester and finds he doesn’t remember anything from the other timeline. Also, Lester can’t take objects from the material plane with him when he goes to his pocket dimension. Yannic asks for a mirror. Remi asks Bob if he’s seen a celestial anywhere in the forest where the tower is. Bob says yes, but doesn’t know where he is exactly. He just sees him sometimes.

At sunset, Bob goes outside briefly, telling us to stay inside. This time, we do, and when he comes back, he’s holding a gold scale. He writes a short message to Gorloris on the back side of the scale, signing and dating it, and hands it over to Remi.

The party heads back to the teleportation circles in Floy, powerwalking through the spooky woods. Once there, we decide to teleport to a circle in Gathering close to Gorloris’ home (and also Remi’s). Upon reaching Gathering, Kaiva and Fen fall to the ground, paralyzed completely. Remi realizes that all of the items taken from the Therris vault are cursed and are being tracked, so Betha carries Kaiva and Fen over to the Therris home so Remi can find out what’s going on.

The Therris household lets the party in without question, and Remi goes upstairs to visit Grandma Therris. Grandma Therris is sleeping, but Remi wakes her to hug her and explain why he’s waking her up at this late hour. Being very sleepy, Grandma Therris thinks Remi’s had a bad dream, and tells him that if he and his friends were able to get into the Therris vault in the future and take stuff from it, they can keep it, it’s okay. Downstairs, unbeknownst to Remi, Kaiva and Fen are immediately able to move again. Grandma Therris tells Remi that his friends can sleep in the guest rooms, and that they can talk about things in the morning, at 6 o’clock. She goes back to sleep, having had a long day.

Remi goes downstairs to tell the party they’ll have to wait til morning to talk to Grandma Therris about what happened to Kaiva and Fen, and he is surprised to find the two are back to their animated selves. The party decides that they should see Gorloris before trying to sleep.

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42. The Gathering Core

We head down into the maintenance tunnels, following the stripe for the central control hub. Half an hour in, we feel the floor fall out from under us, by several feet. We pick up our pace, and 10 minutes after the quake, we begin to hear a regular thwomp thwomp sound, and we’re getting closer to it by walking/jogging towards the central control hub.

We start seeing damage to the walls and dead bodies, most of whom seem to have been smushed. The first person we find like this died about 1.5-2 days ago, and they were part of the conjuration clique. We begin to stealth our way down when we notice the bodies and the large footprints in the rubble. The tunnel starts to widen and get taller as the stripe on the wall grows thicker, and the bodies and scorch marks grow more common.

An hour into our jog, we hear footsteps behind us, and Mercury reveals herself sheepishly. She wants the Godkiller Kit. The party questions her motives, given that she sought out Keanvari last night, and she claims that she wants to protect us from the harm that would come to us if people wanted the kit badly enough to kill for it. She says that Keanvari does know we have it. In the end we decide not to give her the kit, and Mercury leaves, unhappy.

We continue on, reaching a hallway that curves around a circular room – the control hub. Peeking in past the stone doors, we see a large dome of a room with huge orbs floating by the ceiling. The largest orb is hovering several feet above what would be the center of the floor, if the floor were not a crevasse with lava at the bottom. (It would seem that feeding the core raw magic did not end all that well.) The orb in the center of the room is providing energy to the orbs on the ceiling. Also there’s a 20 foot tall and 20 foot wide stone golem patrolling the room.

Kaiva sets up a tripwire at stone golem ankle-height using the Friendship Rope. Remi and Kaiva approach the golem while everyone else hides behind a stone door, and Remi manages to convince the golem we are here to help restore power to the core to save Gathering from falling. He allows them to try, but he watches them very closely. Looking around the room, there seems to be a power socket just on the edge of the central orb that could be reached without having a hand chopped off by the rotating circular blades of the core.

After some consultation with the rest of the party, it’s decided that the best course of action is to have the golem lift Remi up to the power socket so he can insert the battery into the power socket on the core. Remi does so, carefully removing the Pokeball protective covers so the magical energy in the Orb of Annihilation can be absorbed into the core.

For a few moments, the core stops, and the whole of Gathering drops by about 15 feet. Then the core starts up again, and Kean says that maybe it would be good to get away from the core now that it’s recalibrating? So we make a run for the door, then Kean, when he says he’s readying a teleportation spell. The golem decides he doesn’t like taking falling or lightning damage in our presence, so he attacks us. The core turns everyone invisible except Andra and Fen (who are outside the room in that moment), which delays Kean’s casting of teleportation until we are all visible again. Just before Kean can finally cast teleport, the core sends out another blast of energy, and everything goes white.

When our senses return, we’re standing in the teleportation center of Floy, and a woman herding cows says, “So you’re the Banishers?”

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41. The Infuriating Realities of a "Long Rest"

Everyone settles in for a long rest, and the circlet-wearing people are asked to rest as well. In the process of asking Kean to get rest, Yannic critfails his intelligence save, and falls limply to the ground, twitching in extreme pain. Some healing helps, but it’s a little while before he’s back on his feet. In the meantime, Fen asks Andra to rest, and learns that Andra is furious and wants Fen to take the circlet off.

During the first watch, there’s a bit of a hubbub from the necromancy school, and Yannic and Remi sneak up at the beginning of second watch to find a bunch of scholarly type people arguing about methods. They return and relay this to the people on second watch before going to sleep. Kean falls asleep a little ways into the second watch. The rest of the night passes fairly uneventfully, interrupted only by Kaiva perusing Kean’s binder of message paper after he falls asleep and by a potential ghost sighting by Fen (not really). Also Fen attempting to draw a mustache on Kean.

Once most people are awake, Kean needs a few more hours of sleep to regain use of his spells, so the party uses the time to identify and divvy up the things we’ve retrieved from the Therris vault. When we’re ready to go, we realize Mercury hasn’t returned from sleeping at her own home, so we check Kean’s message sheet to see if she’s written anything. Fen writes a message and doesn’t see a reply, so Remi uses Sending to contact Mercury, asking politely if she’s going to come with us. Mercury replies, “I’m sorry. I should have believed you,” and Remi can tell that she’s on a different plane of existence.

Fearing the worst for Mercury, we decide to leave without her. Kaiva wears Andra’s circlet, instead of Fen. Yannic wears Kean’s, and Remi wears Ondelin’s. We reach the Supreme Magus’ office, Fen pockets a shiny bauble, and we head back down into the maintenance tunnels.

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40. The Therris Vault "Heist"

Fen, who’s just emerged from the tree, uses her tree monster form to clear the teleportation circle in the courtyard. A half orc lady protests, and explains that they’ve been using the rubble to try to keep the green fire (Soulfire) from coming through and killing people. After considering this and also her lack of options for fixing the teleportation circle, Fen permits the folk piling rubble on the circle to continue and instead splits off to find the rest of the party.

When Fen catches up the the rest of the party in the basement, Mercury is holding the circlet that controls Kean. Mercury puts the circlet on, wincing, to ask Kean some questions about potential solutions. She gets visibly frustrated with this method of communicating, and she tries to convince the party the best solution would be to simply call Keanvari to get all this straightened out. The party is hesitant, and they explain that Keanvari is hella scary and definitely evil, with no positive feelings for the group.

Disillusioned, Mercury says maybe Keanvari could be redeemed, perhaps with the use of a special pair of handcuffs she created long ago. This pair of handcuffs is stored in the Therris vault, along with some other items that, together, comprise the Godkiller Kit. The Therris vault has never been robbed, in 3000 years, which is why the kit was placed there. Aside from that kit, there might be useful gems and potions, as well as magical batteries that could potentially help with the efforts under the city. It’s possible to use the maintenance tunnels under the city to reach both other parts of the city and the maintenance and control hubs. The university’s entrance to these tunnels is in the Supreme Magus’ office.

The party splits, leaving a very sad Yannic with all of the collar-wearers and their circlets, while the rest head for the Therris vault via the maintenance tunnels. Using what they learned from the Lady of Learning, the party gains entrance to the tunnels, and they decide to stick together long enough to get a magical battery at the Therris vault before going down to the Control Hub.

They follow the stripe to the ladder leading to the Therris home, where Mercury casts a shielding spell to allow them to travel through the soulfire, if they hurry. Kaiva carries Mercury, and Fen and Betha hang on to Kaiva’s clothes, as they all rush through the deadly green fire. Halfway there, Mercury begins to slip off Kaiva’s back, but they all manage to keep her from her and everyone else falling. They reach the doors leading to the Therris vault, quickly get inside, and shut the doors against the soulfire.

Once inside, Remi leads the group through various security measures designed to trick or trap anyone who can’t interact with the ghosts commanded by the Heir of Therris.

Mercury elects to sleep in her own home, across the courtyard.

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39. Gathering and Mercury and Stuff

While Ulita stands guard, Fen’s mind is transported to another place, where the tree she’s touching still stands, and her old mentor is there too. It turns out Fen needs to prove that she can actually do what she promised the tree she would: protect the trees as the Scion of the Forest. Fen goes at her mentor, the last Scion of the Forest, with her bare fists and then the Friendship Rope, while her mentor grows into a tall tree with a long reach and a hefty wallop. Although she takes being a treant for a test drive, Fen fails the test, however she’s left with a knife on her hand that can take her back to fight her mentor anytime she wants, until she succeeds. She’ll also be allowed to take allies with her in the future.

Meanwhile, in the courtyard of the university, the other party members are fending off people seeking food. Among the many people, Remi spots someone approach Kean and whisper in his ear, before they dart off. Remi tells Yannic, who asks Kean who that was: it turns out she’s Mercury, and she wants to save Kean. Kaiva distracts the crowd with strips of jerky while the rest of the party sneaks into the College of Arcane Magic. (Andra needs to be dragged along and or carried because Fen has her circlet, though she’s not wearing it during her fight.)

Once inside, the party sees a whole lot of people rushing around, trying to solve problems. Also there’s a whole lot of people running toward the necromancy department, which is unusual. Yannic guides everyone down to his old professor’s office in the basement, which is empty of people and most useful books. Once there, Yannic tells Kean to contact Mercury to see if she can help. After some ineffective communication, Mercury arrives. She’s a late-middle-aged elf who’s worried about her teacher.

Remi explains what’s going on with the circlets and collars, and after learning that Kean is not actually Keanvari, who was her teacher many years ago, Mercury expresses doubt that a clone could accomplish what Keanvari could, to take the collars off. Mercury explains what the people in the university are doing to keep the worldwide teleportation system going, and the party shares that Gathering will likely fall by the end of the next day. There’s some discussion about how the party could potentially help with anything, anything at all.

Throughout the discussion with Mercury, Yannic has been putting the circlet on and taking it off, with varying levels of pain/consciousness.

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38. Teleportation Maintenance

Finally, we arrive at the promised time: Betha calls Sivoreen. Sivoreen, probably still nursing a few bruises from her last visit, appears on the edge of town, and agrees to talk with Kean about what potions might be needed. Yannic, meanwhile, asks Kean what sort of good things he wants Yannic to make him do. “I don’t know,” says Kean. “That’s the whole point.”

An incredibly long and circuitous potions talk ensues, the upshot of which is that we need 3 potions of level 8 or higher, which Sivoreen will help us obtain. The conversation ends with Sivoreen in possession of the Potion of Lots of Stuff and in pursuit of the other two, with us holding a Potion of Invulnerability that we’re not allowed to use. Ulita is distraught at how bad everyone is at negotiation, but they were hiding and couldn’t speak up for fear of being removed from the whole scene.

Kean says that he usually gets ahold of gems by going to rich people’s houses and being scary at them and then asking for them. Ulita immediately volunteers to rob some rich people, and somehow it shakes out that Ulita, Remi, Fen, and Kaiva will rob the Therris house for some shinies. Only the teleportation circle is down for scheduled maintenance.

Remi and Betha forage for food, coming across a deer that dies in front of them and sparks an incredible discussion about how to preserve what we can’t immediately eat.

Kean suddenly gets up and goes to sit by Yannic, taking his hand and telling him that everything’s going to be okay, and starts putting the Cuddle Moves on our warlock boy. We’ve figured out how long it takes for Yannic to start subconsciously mind-controlling him, y’all, and it’s creepy as fuck.

Andra’s gripping her circlet hard enough to draw blood, and Ulita puts it on to see if she needs to have hers worn to keep her okay. Only, Ulita goes blank instead, going into Puppet Mode. Betha rips the circlet off their head and Ulita faints, head smoking, muscles twitching like they’ve just been struck by lightning.

Later on, another huge-ass column of red light flashes up. “But all the Towers have already been destroyed!” you say. Yup. So Betha, Ulita, and Kaiva hop through a teleportation circle drawn by Kean to a shithole city Ulita knows near where the column was, Gehenna. (Yes, that Gehenna.)

Gehenna is a shitty mining town, producing fellstone (used to make the Shadowfell, back in the Before Times). The three snoop through the town, which is in a big hole in the ground on the third level of the Hollow, and peek their heads over the top to see a biiiiiiiiiig fuck-off army of demons and various nasties. There are chainghouls and zombies, and really really pale people with bat wings, and all sorts of other shit.

Having gathered information, the Investigators Three snoop back to wait for the teleportation circle in Keyberry Ford to stop repairing itself. Ulita finds a couple of books in the abandonded house they hole up in, and around 6:30pm Remi sends a message saying that the circle’s back on.

The Investigators Three snoop back towards the circle, except Betha trips, triggering an epic footrace against a chainghoul and a particularly threatening-looking pale person in a hood. Ulita manages to impress said person by casting Silence on them and interrupting their spell, and then pisses them off by doing it again next round. Eventually, though, the three make it to the teleportation circle and zap to Wheatfield, and then to Floy, and then back to Keyberry Ford, in hopes of shaking off any pursuers. And that’s where we ended!

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