While the adventurers had managed to open CAERULEUM’s WATER PORTAL to FARRAGO, only four had managed to step through: Dumplin Ages the Halfling Barbarian, Shelby the Rakshasa Sorcerer, Davroar Hollysword the Cleric of the Mad God Moriarty, and Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard.
Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, Acindor the Human Fighter, Acindor’s wife Melissa the Human Fighter, Eondul the Human Wizard, and a young dragon of unknown type stood atop the PORTAL PLATFORM to defend it long enough for their friends to reach the Portal, while Nikolas the brass Dragonborn Fighter, Nellson Williams the red Tiefling Artificer with a robotic left arm and his steel defender gorilla Cupcake, Kudac the Half-Orc Cleric of Baldnoggin, Lightfingers the Elf Rogue, and Pigsnot the Elf Fighter fought to join them.
Their foes were many, and included the remnants of Big Big Boss Gilderwart’s WAR’TODE ENCAMPMENT, Snizzle the drunken Cleric of Kroakatoa and his “pet” froghemoth (whom the former supposed was the Avatar of Kroakatoa), the half-goblin Sister of Shetebrek the adventurers had last fought when they faced the Fearless at the PEACOCK HARBOR DOCKS, and a growing number of undead forces spilling out of the doors of the TEMPLE OF WANJO. Frankly, it was a miracle they were all still alive.
Eondul urged the dragon to accompany him to the Portal and then made his way there.
Having just recently and narrowly escaped the froghemoth’s tongue, Pigsnot ran back the way he’d come between two-tiers rows of prisoner cages. He’d literally just escaped from one of those cages and some part of him felt like he was losing ground. On the other hand, he needed to put some distance between himself and that monsters tongue and tentacles.
While they were relatively safe from the froghemoth at the moment from their position atop the PORTAL PLATFORM, Acindor and his wife backed up to the Portal to guard it it and give themselves the opportunity to quickly retreat if it came to that.
Intent on reaching the Portal, Kudac pressed through a crowd of escaped prisoners, successfully squeezing through to the other side. Unfortunately, his actions put him in full view of the undead minions in the doorway to the TEMPLE OF WANJO and the zombie ogre rampaging through one set of the prisoner cages. Nikolas the brass Dragonborn moved to join Kudac, hoping they could fend off their foes better together.
On the stairwell up to the PORTAL PLATFORM, Cupcake tried to ascend further but was grabbed by the ankle by a fr’ogre behind him. As Cupcake fell to the stairs, he nearly knocked Lightfingers off the side of the stairs, but the thief held his balance. Nellson continued to climb up the side of the stairwell until he reached a spot above Cupcake. Thinking quickly, he said a quick cantrip to heat up the metal that made up Cupcake’s foot. The frog’re’s eyes widened with pain as the metal ankle began heating up. Even so, the brute stubbornly held fast to the metal gorilla. When it finally got too hot to handle, the fr’ogre made one last desperate attempt to yank Cupcake off the ledge, but the metal gorilla wrenched its foot free and got away.
Meldor, Shelby, Dumplin and Davroar emerged from the other side of the portal. They found themselves on a smaller stone platform which almost immediately descended into a wide stairwell. While they were undeniably in a large chamber with a high vaulted ceiling, the thing which caught their immediate attention was the view. The chamber was built like an artificial cavern so that nearly the entire wall opposite them was open, revealing a view of sun-kissed beaches, swaying palms and crashing surf. After everything they’d been through, it was like paradise or the promise of a long rest.
It was this very thought that caused Dumplin to seek out a door so she could return to Ages. Spotting one on the left side of the chamber, she made a beeline for it. Opening the door, she stepped into Ages, determined to pick out new companions to replace her recently slain death dogs.
While she was magically transported to the dimensional tavern called Ages, the door she opened led somewhere more permanent and mundane, of course. What emerged from the adjoining room through the door she opened looked like a man-sized shield with many wings. A large eyeball watched them from the center of the shield. It considered them for a moment, making a thrumming noise which sounded very much like, “bobobobobobobobob,” and then entered the chamber to observe them more closely. It stared at Meldor and Shelby, its intent unreadable.
“Can I help you?” the rakshasa ventured.
“What is your function?”
The rakshasa blinked. “That is complicated.”
“My function is to see that a purpose is fulfilled,” Shelby replied.
“Well… Apparently there are multiple purposes. One that I was sent here to fulfill and one that I was requested to fulfill while I am here.”
The entity stared at him silently for almost a minute before saying, “Undecided.”
“Undecided about what?”
“Whether our goals are in line,” it said.
“Perhaps we could discuss-“
“Discussion is unnecessary.”
The rakshasa tried a different tack. “What are your goals?”
“Are you lost?” the winged thing asked. “Do you belong?”
“This remains to be seen.”
Meldor Ironforge considered the obviously powerful being. If it was concerned with lost things, it might be able to assist him. “Tell me,” he called, “do you know where the next Plate of Farcebolt can be found?”
The winged creature turned to stare at him. “No one knows where the next Plate of Farcebolt can be found except Wanjo the Wise, and he is missing. Nobody knows where he’s gone.”
“Do you know anyone who might know where Wanjo’s gone?” the dwarf wizard asked. “Anyone at all?”
“Oola might know.”
At that moment, Dumplin Ages attempted to re-enter the chamber from the door she’d exited, only to find it blocked by the winged entity.
“Excuse me, could you move so I can feed my pet?” she asked. She was carrying a metal box and three dead rabbits. The box rattled. “And let me tell you, Princess Dracula gets very grumpy when she gets hungry.”
To everyone’s surprise, the winged entity floated off to the side to allow her entrance.
“Thank you,” the halfling barbarfian said brightly.
“What is your function?” it asked.
“What function do you serve?”
“Well, I suppose I serve my master.”
“Who is your master?”
“Oh, Mr. Ages. He owns the tavern.”
“Undecided. Do you know what you’re doing?”
“What I’m doing? Right now? Or what I plan to do in the future?” she asked. “Right now, I’m going to feed Princess Dracula. In the future, I dunno because right now I’m just following this strange bunch of people I met in a library.”
At that moment, the zombie tyrannosaur reappeared on the PORTAL PLATFORM, its period of magical banishment having ended. It landed with a heavy impact when it was portalled back. Eondul found himself pinned beneath the left foot of the z-rex. He immediately lost consciousness. At the same time, Nathan Garney was knocked prone when the zrex’s head bounced down with the impact of its reappearance.
Nomad the Warforged Artificer found himself staring through the bars of a long cylindrical cage. He almost nearly lost his footing as the cage bounced around. He took a moment to get his bearings and found himself looking up the back of a half-goblin assassin. He remembered her from before as the archer wearing the vestments of the Sisterhood of Shettebrek. He still felt the pain in his backside where her arrow had struck. The arrow was still there. He was only partly conscious of this fact for he was overwhelmed by the realization that the cage he was held in was hanging from the belted waist of this half-goblin. He’d been shrunken to the size of a mouse!
“Oh, stupid fools!” he heard her mutter angrily. “They opened the Portal. Now nothing can stop the prophecy from being fulfilled.”
He used a sending spell to communicate with his captor. “Why did you shoot me in the butt? And why are you here?” He was taken aback by how shrill and tiny his voice sounded in his ears.
His sudden question caused her to miss her shot at Lightfingers.
Oblivious to her miss, Lightfingers was crouched at the top of the stairs to the PORTAL PLATFORM, assessing his options. He did not like his chances against that zombie tyrannosaurus!
She nocked another arrow quickly and lined up her shot. Before she could release her shot, the thief turned invisible and made his was to the Portal. Furious at the missed opportunity, she snatched the cage off her belt, brought it up to eye level and asked, “What’s that, little bird?”
“Why am I in this cage?”
“This is to keep you safe,” she assured him.
“But the chaos!” he sputtered.
Her eyes widened. “By gods, you’re one of those. You serve the Mad God Moriarty? Do you know what trouble he’s caused us? Do you know what he’s done by sending you clueless heroes to open this Water Portal?”
“Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just started serving Moriarty just a little bit ago.”
She scoffed. “You might want to consider switching religions, but know this: In opening that Portal, you have begun the fulfillment of the Prophecy of the Starkiller. We are all now doomed.”
“I didn’t have anything to do with that,” he protested. “I was stuck in a cage and I just got myself free!”
Rolling her eyes, she cast mute on the small prison.
A moment later, Nikolas the brass Dragonborn appeared in the cage with him, a conspicuous arrow sticking out of his scaly hide.
Deciding he wasn’t a threat, Nomad telepathically reached out to their captor. “What are you trying to save us from?”
“I told you already,” she thought back. “I was trying to prevent you fools from getting the gears going on the Prophecy of the Starkiller, but you idiots were relentless!”
“What’s the Prophecy of the Starkiller?”
She scoffed. “Ask your comrades. They’re the ones opening the Portal.”
“They’re not my comrades!” he shouted. “I have no idea who any of these people are! Can’t you at least tell me what this Prophecy is?”
“You’ve not heard the Prophecy of the Starkiller? The one that ushers in Shadofar, Enemy of All Existence and Memory?”
“I don’t know about any of that,” he said. “All I know is that I was trapped in a cage and then there were zombies and then a zombie t-rex and then you. And I’m just trying to survive like, What is going on?”
“What’s going on is you’re keeping me from saving your friends,” she said.
“They’re not my friends,” he said. “I don’t care what happens to them. At all.”
For his part, Nikolas heard not one word of this exchange, since it was all going on inside the other two’s heads. What he could see was a warforged standing motionless in the cage with him. He decided to see whether it would respond to his voice.
“Hi there,” he greeted the warforged. “Where are we?” His tiny voice sounded unnaturally shrill and high-pitched, like he’d just sucked the air out of a levitanium balloon.
Nomad didn’t immediately answer so Nikolas attempted to accost their relatively giant captor. “Hey! Hey”
“Would you be quiet?” Nomad said, startling the dragonborn. “I’m trying to have a conversation.”
Nikalos frowned. The warforged had been silent up until now. He wasn’t tlaking to anyone as far as he could tell. “What are you talking about?”
Nomad pointed up at their captor’s head. “I’m talking to her telepathically. It’s the only way she can hear us. She’d cast mute on the cage.”
“Well, what does she want?”
“She’d mad that you guys opened that Portal. She’s says that you’re idiots. And she’s talking about some Prophecy of the Starkiller.”
“I don’t know anything about a prophecy. The goddess Canon charged us with opening the Water Portal and now I just want to use it to get out of this place! Somebody let a zombie T-rex loose in the cavern.”
“I know! I saw it. I was stuck in one of the gods-cursed cages when it came,” Nomad said.
They both stopped speaking, silently sizing each other up. They both obviously wanted out of this situation. They were probably going to have to work together to make their escape. But could they trust the other guy in the cage?
On the Beach
As the undead forces continued to pour out of the gates of the TEMPLE OF WANJO to the north, Kudac and Nikolas found themselves being boxed in. A fr’ogre running in from the western side of the ENCAMPMENT and the Zombie ogre to the south near the PRISONER CAGES put the escaped prisoners to flight in a panicked mob. While the z’ogre picked off prisoners at his rear with casual malice, Nikolas found himself beset by two ghouls. He bashed one of the fiends away but the other bit him in the arm. Kudac was also beset by two undead, but they became entangled in one another trying to reach him. He attacked the one on the right with his mace, bashing its rotting brains in.
Further south, the froghemoth made his way up the beach and grappled another fr’ogre in its tentacles. The fr’ogre was too big to swallow whole, but the froghemoth looked like it was more than willing to take its victim in a few bites.
The Big Big Boss and his remaining fr’ogre escort hurried up the stairs, retreating from the abomination.
Snizzle the drunken War’tode Cleric of Kroakatoa uttered a flight spell and flew to a position nearer the froghemoth to urge it onward.
The Dragon Attacks
Atop the PORTAL PLATFORM, things were about to undergo a major shift in power.
Outraged that the z-rex had squashed his new pet Eondul, the baby dragon screeched at the massive undead creature. The sonic blast swept up the z-rex and lifted it off the ground. As the z-rex sailed toward the edge, Nathan Garney and Nellson flattened themselves to the ground. The zombie t-rex tumbled through the air just over their ducked heads and sailed over the edge of the PLATFORM.
Its tumbling flight knocked the fr’ogre who’d attacked Cupcake down the stairs into Big Big Boss Gilderwart and the other fr’ogre, who all fell into a struggling heap at the bottom. Cupcake was knocked over the side of the stairs along with the t-rex. His metal body was dented and battered badly during the fall. The metal gorilla found himself trapped under the z-rex’s legs. The z-rex’s impact was so bad that it crushed prisoner cages and caused its stomach to rip open, allowing humanoid zombies it had eaten to crawl out.
Pigsnot found himself trapped between two rows of prisoner cages with the froghemoth at one end and the zombie t-rex’s gaping jaws at the other. The tyrannosaur’s jaws were open and its head was lying on its side. Reasoning that the prone t-rex might give him better odds than the froghemoth, he ran toward the zombie dinosaur’s head and leapt atop its top head. Unfortunately, his elven grace failed him. He slipped as the zombie’s rubbery rotting skin moved beneath his feet. Instinctively, the z-rex’s jaws snapped shut; however, as Pigsnot fell, he lunged forward and punched the zombie in the eye, blinding it. When he landed, he found himself lying across the zombie tyrannosaur’s head. Scrambling to his feet, he frantically scurried away from the dinosaur’s mouth as it opened to try to swallow him whole. He managed not only to get to the relative safety of the monster’s neck but ran along the length of its prone body, but before he could leap free, the hand of a War’tode zombie burst out of the tyrannosaur’s stomach and grabbed his ankle! Pigsnot fell and screamed in terror as he ineffectually tried to escape.
Kudac was now facing a zombie that had been expelled from the tyrannosaur’s stomach and the ghoul remaining from his other encounter. As he moved to attack the ghoul, he was knocked down by the t-rex’s tail. Nellson took a shot at the ghoul from atop the PORTAL PLATFORM and killed it. Cupcake attempted to get out from under the t-rex’s leg, but couldn’t quite manage it. Another ghoul spotted Kudac on the ground. The ghoul and the zombie that had been expelled from the t-rex’s stomach both rushed at him, but got hit with the dinosaur’s tail and then fell in a heap of tangled limbs.
Acindor used a potion of healing to revive Eondul and then he and Melissa dragged him over to the Portal. With a quickly exchanged glance of agreement, they stepped through the Portal, taking Eondul with them.
Acindor nearly soiled himself when he saw the winged entity of the other side of the Portal. He recognized it instantly as a Finder, an avatar of B.O.B., the outsider god of death and lost items. The very god he’d been resurrected by and given this husk he lived within. The very god he’d promised to bring a star sapphire to prevent the very Portal they’d just opened from being opened! He was in big trouble.
As far as anyone could ascertain, a Finder’s job was to make sure that anything that entered a portal was meant to have done so.
“Ah!” Shelby said, noticing them “I see you made it. You have dealt with the dinosaur?”
“Yes, the dragon knocked the dinosaur off the platform,” Acindor said distractedly.
“Good,” Shelby said. “Let’s see what we have here.” He attempted to read the Finder’s thoughts but found himself suffering from something akin to an ice cream headache. Redirecting his spell away from the creature, he discovered from Acindor’s thoughts that the entity was an avatar of B.O.B., god of death and lost items.
The rakshasa began to think of things he’d lost. The Finder rounded on him. “What have you lost?” the Finder asked.
“Most recently, I misplaced a ring. Prior to that, I dropped a certain piece of parchment. There was also a book. Before that, I lost a robe. I rather liked it. It was was fine piece of clothing. I owned a modron, but it wandered off. When you’re 11,000 years old, you tend to lose things.”
“Did you lose your memory?”
“That I have not lost.”
“How good is your memory?”
“I remember everything.”
“Then you remember the terms set down by Canon.”
“I remember the terms of the agreement.”
The Umbrage of Canon
As if summoned by the mention of her name, the dread goddess of history appeared before him. “The terms were quite clear and no agreement was made.”
“How could we come to terms with no agreement?” Shelby asked shrewdly.
“The word of a god is not an agreement. It’s a command.”
“It was our understanding that I serve another,” Shelby said.
“We have no understanding. You have no authority in these realms unless the Lords of the Seven Worlds recognize your authority. As the goddess of history, I am the goddess of all that has ever been written or spoken or shall be.”
“Would that be law? Chaos or law?”
“You see see things in such simple terms. For all your years, your perspective is limited. Now I will let you live but you have to release everyone from your secret contract. My terms for allowing you to continue to exist in this history were that you bind no one to your pernicious agreements until the Water Portal was open. Furthermore, you have no choice.”
“Yes, but it is not my agreement alone. You know whom I serve and you will have to take it up with him.”
“We will gladly do so, but we do not recognize his authority here. And do not threaten for I have seen all of history and there is no history in which your master ever rallies against the Seven Worlds and wins. Furthermore, Shadofar will win if you do not release these heroes from your contract. They must walk from this place free or Shadofar will erase the Seven Worlds from even memory and you with it. What does your master gain then?”
“Vey well,” the rakshasa said, his voice dripping with reluctance, “If they are mortal, they are released, so long as this does not prevent me from making such contracts in the future.”
“This is wisdom worthy of Wanjo himself,” Canon said. “Until next time, rakshasa.”
With that, she vanished.
The Summoning of Shettebrek
Almost immediately, the room darkened and a presence of deep dread filled them. Meldor and Davroar alone were unaffected by the terror of Shettebrek, god of fear and panic. An impossible figure stood before the, looking like the very thing that they feared the most.
“Meldor Ironforge,” Shettebrek said, his voice as deep as the grave, “I have chosen you for my Champion in the Gotternacht Games. Will you fight for me?”
“I don’t think I have a choice,” Meldor said. “I don’t want attacked by a thousand spiders. I will.”
“It is done,” Shettebrek intoned, sounding quite pleased with the outcome of their brief exchange. A moment later, the room brightened and the dread presence of the Many-Eyed One felt more like the morning after a bad dream you can’t fully remember.
Lightfingers came through the Portal, having just missed all of this. He noted that everyone looked shaken, but there seemed to be no obvious threat. Unless one counted the winged Finder in the middle of the chamber. Those things had a nasty reputation, but it didn’t look like anyone was really paying much attention to it right now. Shrugging, he decided to try out a spell he’d recently learned. At the end of the spell, a fiend appeared before him and instantly took the form of an owl familiar.
Davroar shook his head and said, “We’re wasting time. We need to get out of here.”
Those Left Behind
Meanwhile, Nathan Garney stepped the edge of the PLATFORM where he could survey the battlefield and cast mass healing word on the allies he could see. Afterward, we watched as the froghemoth drew closer to the PORTAL PLATFORM and trapped a fr’ogre in its tentacles. Since it couldn’t swallow such large prey whole, it contented itself with biting the fr’ogre’s head clean off! Elsewhere the zombie ogre savaged another escaped prisoner. The zombie tyrannosaur got to its feet with an eerie roar. Pigsnot was horrified to realize that the zombie hand still held him firmly in its grip so that he was now dangling helplessly from the z-rex’s side.
Nathan began to have severe misgivings as to whether they would all survive long enough to make it to the Portal, but, Everly as his witness, he was going to try his best to make sure his comrades lived!