The party retraces Kaiva’s steps back to the professor’s office where she and Remi parted ways, and Fen kicks the door in. Remi apologizes for his friends’ behavior and takes his leave. In the library, we check out our six books. Betha asks Remi about the penalty for not returning books, and he says he can’t remember ever hearing of anyone not returning books on time.
We discuss for a while the logistics of getting through to the first plane/timeline. Betha goes to send some mail. After gathering his thoughts, Remi uses Sending to communicate with Andra, letting her know: “We’re trying to come over soon. Silver eye’s a time god. One apocalypse’s happening here in two days. Council might cause another. We miss you.” Andra replies, “Focus return on Stepback Inn’s Fireplace, if possible. Multiplanar link in progress. Message me before attempt so we can help process. Ondelin loves you.”
Meanwhile, Yannic is writing to Kean or Keanvari using his messaging paper. Kean writes back, saying he’s fine for now, but he’d like to meet up. He draws a teleportation circle for Yannic to use, which he assumes goes to Hell. Eventually, we figure out it doesn’t actually go to Hell, so Yannic asks Kean where it goes. Remi pays 5,000gp for someone to cast a teleportation circle spell, and just as we step through, Fen casts Disguise Self to alter her appearance to resemble someone who might be Betha’s cousin.
We arrive in a cold, snow-covered place that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. There isn’t a teleportation circle beneath our feet. Ahead of us is a curtain of smoke, through which we can’t sense anything, but there are faint outlines of footprints leading into the haze. Remi guesses we’re somewhere to the north. Kaiva exclaims over Fen’s disappearance and the sudden appearance of someone else. To Betha’s frustration, Fen introduces herself as Olga, Betha’s cousin. After some arguing, we all go through the curtain of smoke.
Inside, there is a clearing clear of snow. A small house with a porch and a garden sits there. Above, the sky is the same snowy grey as outside the barrier. When Yannic knocks on the door, a wary Kean opens it. He eyes Fen, but Kean lets us into the house.
Yannic asks Kean if he’s going to be okay. Kean says probably. Yannic tells him we’re leaving for the first plane/timeline, and he asks Kean if there’s anything he can do to make it easier. Kean says no. Yannic asks for some privacy and space from the rest of the party, which is huddled in the doorway trying to figure out what the heck happened to Fen and who the heck Olga is.
Behind a closed door, Yannic asks if Kean thinks Keanvari will let Kean go. Kean tells him he was never supposed to wake up; the fact that Kean’s awake changes things. He tells Yannic again that there’s nothing Yannic can do. When Kean goes to leave the bedroom, Yannic asks him to wait. He explains that he wrote Kean a letter, but he felt that wasn’t enough. Kean means so much to him, and he wants him to know.
Kean says, “That’s good, thanks.” He tells Yannic it’s good he’s leaving, since it sounds like things might work out better in the first timeline. He’s known that this was coming for a while. He awkwardly tells Yannic it’s time to go, but realizes he has no paper to write on. Kean leaves the room long enough to draw a teleportation circle on a sheet of paper. (It’s the same as the one he last sent Yannic.) Kean tells Yannic that he runs away a lot, and this is where he goes.
Kean explains that there’s a schedule, and he has 15 hours until Keanvari uses his body as a vessel for approximately 40 minutes, probably. He trails off, then rallies, taking comfort in the knowledge that this doesn’t sound like a concern in the other timeline. He pats Yannic’s shoulder, and Yannic starts to cry.
The rest of the party gangs up on Kean, asking him what he did to Yannic. He protests that he was trying to help. “Olga” tackles Kean into Yannic before Kean takes himself back into a corner of the bedroom to look sad and confused. Yannic shuts the door on the rest of the party and tells Kean, “I wish I could have done more, but I have friends and I’m going to go where they go.” Kean tells him he has a request, and Yannic immediately says, “Yes, anything.”
Kean asks Yannic to deliver a letter to Andra. Yannic agrees, so Kean goes to find some paper again. With the two of them back where the others are, Remi Messages Yannic to ask if he’s okay. Yannic replies no, but he’ll just listen to Fen spinning a tale about Olga for now.
As Kean writes his letter, Kaiva and Fen admonish Betha for being a bad cousin. Obviously, Olga is here as a dead gnome-tree ghost because she had unfinished business with Betha. Betha grits her teeth and hugs Fen, hoping to keep her there until she has turn back into her halfling self. Fen wriggles out of her arms and through the front door, drops Disguise Self, and returns as Fen. She explains to Kaiva that she had to come through the teleportation circle later, after the rest of the party did. Betha goes outside the smoke barrier to pack a snowball and lies in wait for Fen. When Kaiva and Fen leave the house, Betha lobs her snowball at Fen’s head. Kaiva and Fen decide to have a snowball fight and build a snow Olga.
Inside, Kean hands a letter to Yannic, who asks if he can make a teleportation circle for us to get to the Stepback Inn in Floy. Kean realizes he forgot that we can’t teleport. He says yes, but he’ll have to be outside the barrier to do it, and it will take him a minute to cast. There isn’t any way to make the casting time faster. Kean leaves the house, and Yannic reluctantly follows. Remi goes through the smoke wall, and it’s just Betha, Yannic, and Kean left inside.
Yannic begins, “If I don’t see you again-” Kean interrupts, “But you are!!” Yannic says, “But not you.” Kean says that’s okay and good. Betha eyes Kean, glances at Yannic, and walks through the wall of smoke. Yannic tells Kean he loves him, to which Kean says, “THANKS!” and shoves Yannic through the barrier. Yannic is visibly crying, so Betha goes back through the smoke to ask Kean what happened. Kean takes a moment, and then he’s coming through to cast teleportation circle. Two-thirds of the way in, we see something dark high in the sky directly above and getting closer. Fen readies a bow and arrow, Kaiva readies a sword, and Yannic squeezes Kean’s shoulder as we all get ready to jump. When Kean finishes casting the spell, we all jump in. At the last moment, seeing that a bird is headed straight for Kean, Kaiva decides against joining Kean and instead throws her sparkly shield at him.
We’re back in Floy. We head to the Step Back Inn, where the bartender is on the clock and a couple people are finishing up their dinner. There are plenty of time ghosts here, but Remi sees that the entire fireplace is shimmering faintly. We briefly consider flexing our authority as Banishers, but Remi magically sends the inn’s other occupants to sleep instead. Kaiva gently, carefully deposits their sleeping bodies behind the bar to keep them out of harm’s way.
Fen punches the fireplace just as Remi casts Sending. He tells Andra: “Fen’s punching the fireplace to open the time portal so we can come through, but we gotta fight something first. Hopefully we’ll see you soon.” Andra replies, “Follow the white string through to us. It’ll be up for 1 hour maximum. Be SILENT when you arrive. See you soon, Ondelin loves you.”
Immediately after Fen punches the fireplace, a glowing blue mummy hand emerges, and Betha quickly Banishes it with a faint pop. Remi tells the others what Andra told him, and Kaiva pulls out the silken Friendship Rope so we can all hang on to something. Remi goes first, then Fen, Betha, Yannic, and Kaiva. It’s hot and humid on the other side, and there’s silver everywhere. If we look back, the fireplace is still there, but the rest of town is not. On this side, we can see a white thread wrapped around and around the fireplace. Around us, we don’t see a Gathering Hollow; we just see what Yannic saw when he scryed on Bob – a plain that never had a hollow blasted into it.
Grabbing onto the thread, we walk forward a bit, before we look back to see we haven’t moved at all. Fen holds on to the thread, lets go of the rope, and walks back towards the fireplace. When she pushes her hand against it, her hand starts to pass through a jello feeling, so she returns to her place in the line. Remi tries letting go of the thread instead, and immediately falls and falls and falls, his life flashing before his eyes. Fen manages to stop Remi from falling all the way, and Remi climbs out of nothingness.
We move forward, being careful to hold onto both the thread and the rope, but especially the thread. We walk for a while, and at some point, we get the sense that we’re walking to the left, even though we’re facing the same direction as before and the thread is still straight. Ahead, we can see the fireplace of the Step Back Inn, and we pass through its jello-like consistency.
Ondelin grabs onto Remi’s hand and pulls him through, and everyone else falls through. We see Ondelin’s been gagged. Ondelin and Remi hug, and everyone else sees there’s a teleportation circle ready to go. Andra pulls everyone over to the circle, and Kean staggers over from where he had his hands on the fireplace to activate the teleportation circle.
Kean passes out as soon as we arrive in some kind of very dimly lit cave. Yannic and Betha rush over to check on him, but Andra says aloud that he’s fine. Hearing Andra speak, Remi removes Ondelin’s gag, and the two of the cry over each other and hug a lot. Andra tugs Yannic and Betha away from Kean, and she explains that this room and area is safe. Everything else is not. We ask what’s going on. Andra says things are colliding, but the three of them have been focused on getting us through to this timeline.
Andra asks who among us other than Fen wore her circlet. Kaiva says she did, and Andra goes over to gently slap Kaiva’s face, then properly slaps Fen’s face. We ask how they got out of the collars. Andra says they woke up in a falling city, and Kean teleported them out. The city dropped a bit then stopped, but they don’t know why.
Andra drags Kean to another part of the cave to rest. She says Nemit was at at least one council meeting. The council is meeting every two days, in a space outside. Andra and Kean can get in, since they look like Andraki and Keanvari, but it would be difficult to get anyone else in. Fen suggests Betha should go as a member of fey royal family, and Betha says no.
Around 11pm, we set up watches, exempting Kean for obvious reasons and Remi and Ondelin because they’re cuddling a whole lot.