Early hours of the 30th day of Nigthal 1490 DR the Year of the Star Walker’s Return
“Khendrig?” says Cora as she is suddenly falling.
Reven in an instant dives after her into the darkness.
Jean Luc, seeing him fall casts fly and they vanish into the darkness.
“What happened?” says Osrik, turning back towards the steps.
Xenara also turns, “Where is my brother?”
Jean Luc explains what happened and says they are alive for now.
“You!” Gamora shouts echoing down the hall and they realize there is trouble. Reluctant to leave their friends behind they press on to find Gamora.
The First Trials
Cora falls into the darkness and yet she is calm. It was Khendrig, she knows it in her heart. As she falls she notices massive forms moving in the darkness and hears mechanical droning. As her eyes adjust she sees giant metallic gears moving all around her.
As she falls she sees a massive pair of gears feeding into each other. She reaches out and grabs the massive metal cog. She crashes into the spoke but it continues to move downwards moving towards her being crushed.
Reven dives into the darkness with increased speed thanks to Jean Luc’s Fly spell. Seeing Cora’s impending fate he summons Hew and throws it at the cogs hoping to jam them. The battleaxe flies between the gaps of the cogs and continues on into the darkness.
Cora falling she catches the edge of the spoke of the gear but it continues to descend. Reven reaches out his hand to her when a massive spinning gear whirls towards him. Reven surprised by the gear’s approach on his flank is struck and carried away.
Cora looking down sees Hew on a floor beneath the cogs. She notices a small gap between the cogs. She doesn’t hesitate and drops down twisting into the space to fall to the ground below. She barely clears the grinding cogs and is about to land on the floor when she is violently choked and lifted up the ground.
Her cloak is hooked into the sharp metal edge of the cog and is lifting her up towards the wall. She will be crushed. In a flash she draws her scimitar and slices off her cloak of protection falling to the ground below in a heap.
She collects herself and stands up picking up Reven’s battleaxe and placing it into her bag of holding. She see a glow emanate from the center of the room illuminating a glass pyramid. With a massive eight armed statue within. The humanoid has his eyes closed with two arms in prayer or meditation. The other six are lifted in various directions each holding a colored orb. The room reveals seven glass doors at the edges of the room. One close to her has a skeleton with a white cloak with the symbol of a golden eye. The cloak is pristine and clean, but the skeleton is badly decomposed. When she removes the cloak the skeleton crumbles into dust, but a medallion drops to the ground. It is very old and resembles an arrowhead with a small circle in the center. She takes the medallion and dons the cloak.
She stands in front of the door and the glass door shimmers and vanishes opening the path. Lights within the cracks of the walls illuminate showing the path. There are steps raising up to a circular symbol on the wall. As she steps forward a voice echoes in her mind. Welcome, Traveler. The Trial of Chronos awaits. Be warned – only success will earn you the Ring of Time. The cost of failure is death.
Reven lifts himself up. After being battered and beaten by a series of gears he lifts himself up off the ground. He sees a glass door besides him and light emanating from outside. Within the center of the room he sees a black sword embedded into the ground. The hilt is a black raven with outspread wings, its talons holding an eye. The black blade begins from eye. The ground he notices is a polished reflective surface.
A voice echoes in his mind, Welcome, Farseer. The Trial of Osiris awaits. Only those who can overcome themselves can claim the power over death and wield the Raven. As all things, the cost of failure is death.
Reven looks at the sword, but turns toward the glass door and it vanishes opening the path into the same chamber Cora had fallen into. He calls out to Cora, “Are you dead yet?”
“I’m here,” shouts Cora. Turning towards Reven’s voice, “Where are you?” The two find each other and make sure they are safe. They each explain what they found and Cora tells him she needs to go into the room and complete the trial and suggests he does the same.
He makes sure she is fine before agreeing with her. He watches her enter the room and the glass door seals him outside. He waits and watches from the outside.
Within Cora makes her way up the steps to the symbol on the wall with various runes surrounding it. The circular carving has a hole in the center which is as deep as Cora’s arm floating within is a glowing ring. The runes they are indecipherable but as she looks at them they shift and change into elvish text, “Only those with a resolute mind and iron determination can control the power of time.”
Cora’s takes a deep breath and looks back at Reven on the other side of the glass. She turns her attention to the ring and reaches her arm into the hole and feels her hand clutch around the ring.
Suddenly there is a mechanical snap and grinding as metal seal clamps on her arm trapping her hand in the hole. A sudden surge of pain rips through Cora’s body causing her to leap and contort and scream as the most intense pain she has ever felt washes over her. Reven shocked by what he sees realizes that she is suffering.
The pain tears into her body as a second wave of pain strikes her, but Cora focuses on her fingers and forces herself to keep the grip on the ring. As she is struck again by another wave of intense pain she focuses her mind and her intent. She will not give up. The burning continues she feels her muscles and nerves burning with intense pain, yet she feels as if her hand is melting. The pain makes her cry, it makes her want cut her arm free, but she focuses her mind. “The resolute mind…” she mumbles in elvish as she screams through her gritted teeth. “Iron determination…” she growls through the next wave of pain.
Hear heart is threatening to burst from her chest. Wave after wave of pain threatens to crush her spirit and break. She does not relent. She does not release the ring. There is a loud mechanical clank as restraints retract and she collapses on the ground. It takes a moment for her sight to return as the pain had literally been blinding. She struggles to stand and looks at what she expects to be a maimed hand, but it is flawless. She struggles to open her hand and within it is a golden ring. Inlaid in the ring seems to be grains of sand that move when the ring is rotated.
The door opens and she struggles to walk out the room. Reven helps her when she exits and makes sure she is fine. The statue at the center of the room turns to face her and she realizes that she is not yet done.
The voice echoes, You have succeeded in the Trial of Chronos. The orbs in each of its six hands shift and move out towards her. Take one as a prize. These may enhance your body and mind. Excel beyond your limits or strengthen your weaknesses. The choice is yours.
She focuses on her skill as an archer and her speed and grace. The green orb glows and floats from the statue into Cora’s chest. She feels her body feels light and more in control that before. She turns to Reven but she vanishes in a flash of light.
The voice echoes again, Farseer, do you wish to take the Trail of Osiris?
“Yes,” says Reven walking toward the glass door.
I will remind you failure means death, repeats the voice.
Reven says, “I mean. What’s the other option?”
Leave, says the voice.
Reven makes his way to the chamber, the glass door vanishes as he walks through. As the door seals closed blue light glows from the ceiling. As he walks towards the sword Reven sees his reflection below him as the entire mirrored floor reflects his movements.
He walks to the black blade and takes the hilt and pulls it from the ground. The light flickers and the room grows eerily dark. The black blade in his reflection wavers as Reven looks at it he is disoriented as his reflection seems to warp out of the reflection and he realizes that he is facing a reflection of himself.
The doppelganger bursts to action bring down his sword on Reven who reacts the faster and strikes it ripping through its body. But it persists and follows through with its attack and thunderwaves Reven.
Reven steels himself and attacks the clone. Its skill, strength, magic, and tactics are all identical to Reven. Possibly even better as he seems to have no hesitation, limits, or fear. The two battle fiercely in the mirrored chamber each trading blows and neither giving ground.
Reven dodges a few attacks and unleashes a barrage of attacks leaving the mirror clone bleeding blue light. Realizing it is weak Reven moves in for the kill. Just as the blade is about to strike it vanishes and strike him from behind. Reven tries to close the gap, but it keeps teleporting away after each strike. This tactic wears down Reven’s stamina and he realizes that can barely keep up the fight.
The mirror clone attacks and Reven barely fends off the attack. When he realizes what happened he notices he is now surrounded by eight mirror clones. Reven recognizes this as an illusion, but can’t tell who is the real opponent.
Knowing the next blow will be his last he closes his eyes and focuses deep within his mind and summons his vision. Everything melts away and he sees his death. One of the mirror duplicates breaks away striking him in the back. Reven opens his eyes and whips his wand of magic missile and releases all its charges at the advancing mirror Reven. Energy bursts from the wand and strike the mirror clone destroying it in an explosion of blue flames. Dark energy seems to gather from the room and pull into the blade. The blade hums with dark energy and it connects to Reven revealing to him its power. A sword of death capable of stealing the souls of those it cuts.
The voice speaks, You have completed the Trial of Osiris and claimed the Raven. You must learn to rely on your mind as much as your blade.
The glass door opens and the statue turns to him revealing the orbs, Choose your gift. These may enhance your body or mind. Excel beyond your limits or strengthen your weaknesses. The choice is yours.
Reven concentrates on his Strength and skill as a swordsman and a red orb glows and strikes him in the chest. His body feels stronger than ever breaking his limits. As he looks at the Raven he vanishes in a flash of light.
Gamora feels a wave of lethargy wash over her as the Haste spell ends. She yells at Trespin, “You!”
She can only watch as Trespin cuts down two of the fiends and he makes his way to her. He clamps down with his maw but she dodges the attack taking a claw to the ribs. He follows up with a backhand that launches her into the wall and she collapses in a heap.
Varramzord the White Wyrmspeaker chuckles loudly, “Looks like luck is on our side today, eh boys?” As he casually tosses an alchemist fire towards one of the trolls.
The fiendish creature growls at him.
“Indubitably!” he replies. “Now let’s not dawdle. Move forward and attack!” The fiends close the gap and engage the trolls attacking with lance and their barbed beards.
Mags flying down the hall shouts to Gamora, “No time for sleeping on the job!”
Vera rushes down and asks if she needs healing, but Gamora shakes it off and pushes into the fight igniting her blade as she strikes at Trespin. Her blows hit but the fire seems to have no effect on him. Trespin grabs her by the face and pulls her in close smelling her.
“Ah…I will enjoy killing you…” he says.
“Ugh… your breath will do the job!” she coughs.
Trespin cuts her with his battle ax sending her staggering and bleeding. She replies in kind with her flaming blade.
Xenara concentrates and forms a black orb of fire, but it once again fires wildly hitting the wall. She curses, “I just can’t get that spell right.”
Mags says, “Don’t let up. Burn those things it keeps them from healing,” and casts firebolt at the trolls engaging the fiends.
Jean Luc joins them activating his bracers and engulfing himself in a Fire Shield.
Vera concentrates and begins casting spell, two circular rings of light appear and in a flash to massive dire wolves appear and attack the guard drakes flanking Trespin.
Osrik summons his spiritual weapon and moves into the fight and cast Shatter on the fiends. The battle rages and with the trolls and the fiends defeated Gamora, Osrik, and Vera’s dire wolves all mount an attack on Trespin and his Guard Drakes. He holds his own against them and soon banishes the dire wolves in the fight.
Jean Luc uses Dimension Doors close the distance on Varram. The White Wyrmspeaker turns to him and says, “Why, hello there.”
“Good day,” says Jean Luc surprised by his cheerful demeanor.
Gamora closes the distance and grabs Varram. “Why, I don’t think you should be doing that…” he says trying to struggle against the half-orc.
Cora materializes next to Xenara, she is hurt and can barely stand.
Xenara turns to her, “Cora?! Where is my brother?”
Cora ignores Xenara and sees Varram. She draws her bow and casts Hunter’s Mark as she fires two arrows at him.
Xenara frustrated with Cora dismissal turns and releases a lightning bolt killing one of the guard drakes. Trespin bites Xenara in retaliation of his fallen pet taking a huge gash out of her neck. She collapses dying on the floor when the turns to Gamora growling, “That’s mine!” and rushes towards her.
Vera heals Xenara and strikes Trespin with his thorn whip pulling him away from Gamora.
Varram speaking into Gamora’s ear casts a spell which takes command over her. Jean Luc realizes this too late and Gamora releases him and engages Trespin once again.
Osrik cast Banishment on Varram and he seems to have to have resisted the spell.
Mags bombards the last Guard Drake with Scorching Ray killing the beast and focusing on Trespin.
Xenara still injured moves towards Trespin, “For my brother, fool!” And unleashes a thunderwave on him.
Trespin shrugs off the attack and takes a bite out of Gamora’s face and strikes her with his battle axe.
Varram being pressed by Osrik releases a black orb that explodes in a blast of cold and frost. Most try to avoid it but its force hurts everyone. Xenara is hit and falls unconscious and dying. Trespin is frozen solid.
“Hahaha, success,” says Varram pulling a knife towards Jean Luc trying to keep him at a distance.
Osrik once again casts Banishment on Varram who vanishes. Osrik shouts that they have less than a minute to shackle him when he reappears. Gamora shakes herself out of the influence of his mind control.
Vera heals Xenara and helps her up. Vera notices the young half-elf is very disappointed and hurt.
With everyone taking positions, Osrik casts Silence on a stone and places where Varram will reappear. When the Wyrm Speaker reappers Cora shoots him with another arrow. Osrik drops the silence sphere at that time.
Varram drops to a knee and drops his knife. He raises his arms in surrender and shows his hands. Vera clamps on the manacles. Gamora looks at the Gold Dwarf and knocks him out for good measure and lifts him up like a sack.
Reven appears in a flash of light he is clearly injured. Cora rushes to him and check on him.
They begin to discuss their next course of action when Trespin growls and breaks the shell of ice surrounding his body. Fully healed he turns towards the party who begin assaulting the troll. They fight against the four armed troll but he holds his own and pushes against the party.
Cora seeing the Yuan Ti return in force covers Reven, saying “Stay behind me!” and fires her bow to keep them at bay. Vera casts Pike Growth keeping the Yuan Ti from joining the fight.
Jean Luc moves close to the party and uses the last scroll of teleport and the party including Varram vanish in a flash of light. They find themselves in Castle Waterdeep in the teleportation circle chamber.
Guard appear as Cora vomits on the ground. Herold appears and tells the guard to stand down. The party instructs them to take Varram to a cell and to keep him gagged and chained at all costs and to bring them his possessions. Which consisted of a staff, dragon tooth dagger, bracers, boots, pouches, and his purple cult of the dragon mantle.
Cora and Jean Luc observe that Varram did not possess the White Dragon Mask. They consider returning to the Tomb of Diderius or searching around the Serpent Hills.
Xenara suggest they speak with Varram before searching anywhere, he may have information that could help.
Mags tells the others that she is going to sleep as it is still rather early. Gamora agrees and they begin to head off, when Vera asks them to gather in the war room first.
Vera focuses and after a moment green flower petals manifest in the air around the room. A warm energy fills the room and begins healing their wounds.
Gamora watching Vera notices her tattoo glowing a warm blue and spiritual vines made of light stretching throughout the room and enveloping everyone in the room.
Cora says that they need to go back and look for the mask, but Gamora and Osrik argue that they need to rest first.
Gamora turns to Vera and thanks her for healing her and says, “You will have to teach me that trick one day.”
“I don’t know if I can, but you are welcome,” says Vera.
Jean Luc turns to Leosin who had joined them when they first arrived to the war room. He updates him on what has happened at the Tomb of Diderius, and takes a few minutes to identify the magic items Varram had in his possession revealing themselves as a Staff of Frost, Bracers of Defense, Green Dragontooth Dagger, and the Wearer of Purple Mantle that functions as a Cloak of Protection.
Cora wearing her white cloak turns to Reven and asks, “Did you have a trial?”
“I did,” he says. “I saw myself die, and then I did die, and then… well I’m fine.”
“Wait, what?!” says Gamora. “I didn’t even know you guys were gone.”
Reven nods, “I’m good thanks.” He lifts the sword in his hand. “This sword feels… different.”
After completing this Jean Luc takes a moment and casts Sending to Talis. Are you hunting the White Wymspeaker? We ran into your troll.
After a couple seconds of no response a flash of blue light sparks in the center of the room and from the light emanates waves of icy vapor. Within the vapor appears the image of Talis. “What did you do?” she asks.
“Same thing we’ve been doing since you saw us last.”
“I’d like to think it’s being very helpful,” says Jean Luc
“Is Varram dead?”
“I don’t believe so.”
“Good, then all can be corrected in time.” Talis notices Cora and smiles. “Hello, Ma’ree.”
“Where are you?” asks Cora.
“That’s irrelevant,” Talis says. “Though I give you fair warning. It’s best not to interfere in my actions next time.”
“What are you planning next? Then we’ll know,” says Osrik.
Talis smirks. “If you see my agents, back away. I will not be so courteous next time.”
“I don’t feel it was courteous this time,” Cora says.
“You’re lucky Trespin did not overwhelm you. He’s hard to control.”
“We’re not competitors,” says Jean Luc. “What can we do to work together?”
“Well, as an act of good faith, I would like you to relinquish Varram to me.”
“Why would we do that?” Jean Luc asks.
“I have an old score to settle with him that will end in him being flayed slowly.”
“I believe he’s already facing retribution from the Gold Dwarves,” says Vera.
“A beheading by a Dwarven tribunal is far too merciful for the likes of him,” Talis says.
“Hey, I’ll cut you a deal,” Jean Luc offers, “If they don’t kill him before we solve our bigger problem, we’ll give him to you.”
“When I receive him, I will return a favor in kind.”
“Where would we deliver him?” Osrik asks.
Talis smirks again. “Fair. If you do decide to trade Varram, bring him to the Hunting Lodge.”
“What are you offering?” asks Cora.
“What would you like?”
“Have you found his mask?”
Talis smirks. “That I’m not giving up.”
“What are you going to do with it?” Jean Luc asks.
“What do you do with any sort of power?”
“If the world survives this fight, all the Cult of the Dragon will be hated for the rest of their lives.”
“Good thing I’m not one of them,” Talis says.
Jean Luc adds, “You think keeping that mask is going to make you distinguishable to the rest of the world?”
“Ah, that’s not the point,” Talis says. “I mean, you have your own Dragon Mask, don’t you?”
“What?” asks Vera.
Talis smirks. “I mean, we all have our trump cards, don’t we.”
“What is she talking about?” Vera asks.
“Now is not the time, Vera,” Cora says.
“Isn’t it?” says Jean Luc.
“When you make a decision, please let me know. And if you’d like something, let me know. It’s obvious I’m not giving up my mask, and I would not insult you by asking you to give up yours.”
“Do you know who attacked the headquarters?” Cora asks.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Talis says. She seems mischievous but neither Cora nor Osrik can tell whether or not she is lying. “Until we meet again.”
“I do have one last question,” Osrik says, “Did you date her?” he indicates Cora. Talis smirks and disappears.
Gamora goes over to Jean Luc and grabs him by the collar, “What mask?”
“Yeah, what mask?” adds Vera.
“What… relationship?” asks Reven.
“She’s talking about the mask I gave to Dru,” Jean Luc says.
“You gave it to her? Or you still have it?” ask Gamora
“No, I gave it to her. When she said she was leaving,” Jean Luc obviously lies. He glances at Leosin who is intently watching them. Jean Luc reaches and takes Gamora’s arm and they vanish.
“Where did they go?” Asks Vera.
“Dimension Door,” says Osrik as he reads his book between yawns.
“Who’s Talis?” Vera asks Cora.
“Yeah, who’s Talis?” asks Reven.
“Don’t be jealous, Thunderwave,” says Mags. “So who’s the better kisser?” she asks Cora mischievously.
With a pop Jean Luc and Gamora appear on the outside the castle on an outer tower.
“I really hate that,” yells Gamora disoriented by the suddent teleportation.
“Look at me,” Jean Luc says to Gamora, “Cora has it. The night that I realized she had it, she and I and Rusty flew away to try to destroy it. Now I haven’t said out loud in front of any of these people that we still have it because I don’t want to give it to them. We are searching for a way to destroy it.”
“Why didn’t you just tell us that before?” asks Gamora.
“Because other people have been in the room.”
“We spent a bunch of nights on the road. Why didn’t you say anything then?”
Jean Luc sighs. “To be honest, just trying not to step on Cora’s mojo. It’s her secret to tell.”
“If we are a team who is trying to save the world together, we need to start being a little more honest with each other.”
“And I’ve told her that, and I haven’t had the chance to tell you that, but we should be on the same fucking page.”
“Because how are we supposed to do anything if we can’t do it together? This war’s already lost if we can’t.”
“You’re right. You’re 100% right.” Jean Luc says.
“Family meeting!” Gamora announces and starts dragging Jean Luc downstairs. The door is locked but she with ease rips it open and heads down.
In the stairwell, Jean Luc stops her and says, “If anyone else is in the room, the story is that I gave it to Dru.”
“Fine. I don’t disagree with you. I don’t trust the people in this building. But we need to trust each other.”
When they return to the war room Gamora shouts, “Family meeting! Everybody that is not us, out!”
“Will you excuse us, friend?” Jean Luc ask Leosin.
Leosin looks at them, “Well this is slightly awkward. Maybe I have some paperwork or sleep to do.” He stands up and says, “Good morning to you all.”
“Do the thing!” says Gamora and Jean Luc begins to cast the Tiny Hut spell. After a minute they all squeeze inside the sphere.
“The cat is definitely out of the bag,” Jean Luc says to Cora. “You may ask well just say it.”
Gamora makes an exasperated sound. “I am so tired of the secrets that everyone is keeping from each other. So tired!”
“What secrets?” asks Cora confused.
“You have the mask still! I thought we had given it to Dru! That was the impression everybody gave me. And I didn’t catch that you still had it. I don’t care that we still have it, but it would be nice for every single one of us to know that. Whatever’s going on with all of us in here, we need to be on the same page.”
“Gamora,” Cora says gently, “you knew I had the mask.”
“I knew we had it, and then we had that meeting and we gave the impression that we didn’t have it anymore.”
“I apologize that you got the impression you were somehow deceived. That was not our intent.”
“But it’s not just the mask.”
“What is it, then?”
“It’s everything! It’s him! It’s her! I don’t know them,” says Gamora gesturing to Reven and Vera.
“Me?” protests Vera.
“You know them. But you don’t tell us anything about you,” says Gamora.
“You know everything about me already,” says Cora.
“Yeah, I’ve had to find it out in bits and pieces.”
“This is about a mask?” Reven laughs and asks, “I thought it was something very different.”
“I catch it in bits and pieces,” says Gamora, “I don’t have a problem with any of you, but I want to know who I’m fighting with.”
“Okay, what exactly is the problem? We have been fighting. You know our purpose,” says Cora.
“I know our purpose, but there’s secrets that happen!”
“There are no secrets being hidden from you. Our purpose is clear. We are on the same side. We are fighting the same battle. Does it matter to you that you do not know who I had a romantic relationship with? Does that matter to you? Do I need to tell you each and every one of my partners, or is this going to be considered a secret?”
“There are things that you will not know every detail about our past. But everything that matters, you know. What matters is we are fighting the same battle,” says Cora. “What matters is we are still on the same team. And we have to trust each other. And there are probably things that you don’t know about my past, that are perhaps not relevant. And if they are, you will learn them. But just the way I have to trust you, you have to trust me.”
“It took us forever to find out about Talis. And you barely told us the tip of the iceberg with her. And I’m not saying I need to know who you sleep with and who you don’t sleep with, that’s not my problem. You know things about the Cult of the Dragon that we don’t know.”
“What else is there to know?”
“Anything you can think of.”
“They will kill anything and anyone who will stand in their way. They will kill anyone who will look at them the wrong way. They have killed my family for simply being related to me.”
“I don’t think I knew that,” says Gamora.
“I think we’ve discussed this, after we met. And remember I told you I warned her that if we cross with her and she is still with the Cult of the Dragon, I will kill her myself. Remember? I’ve told you this.”
“How do we know we can trust her now?”
“We can’t. We can’t trust her just like we can’t trust anybody else. I don’t trust her.“
“I didn’t think it was a good idea to contact her,” Cora says glacing at Jean Luc. “I think I’ve said that before.”
“Good,” repeats Gamora.
“It’s not a good idea that she knows there might be attrition from within our own group,” says Cora.
“That’s why I waited until she was gone,” says Gamora.
Cora looks sternly at Vera who mumbles, “Sorry…”
“We need to be united in this,” Cora says. “We need if anything to put on a united front. If you have questions, feel free to ask them. I don’t know what you don’t know, and I don’t know what you need to know from me that you don’t know already.”
Jean Luc raises his hand, “Why did you fall off that bridge?”
“What?!” asks Gamora, “See, I didn’t know that!”
“Do you remember Khendrig?” says Cora.
“Of course,” says Jean Luc.
“That little guy,” adds Gamora.
“The grey gnome,” confirms Cora.
“I believe they call themselves Svirfneblin,” comments Jean Luc.
“That’s another thing,” says Gamora. “Where the fuck did he go?”
“That, honestly I don’t know. However,” Cora tells the group. “He appeared on the bridge and he pushed me off.”
“Why?” asks Gamora.
“If he was friendly, why would he push you off?” asks Osrik.
Cora continues, “I believe he wanted me to see what was at the bottom of the pit.”
“By trying to kill you?” asks Osrik.
“What was at the bottom of the shaft?” asks Jean Luc.
“No… at the bottom of the pit Reven and I found a room,” says Cora.
“I miss everything when I fight!” Gamora says to herself.
“And this is perhaps why we will need to go back to the temple,” Cora continues “At the bottom there was a room with what looked like a shrine with an eight-armed statue guarding it. But also, there were seven doors, and I believe the one that I was led to had a trial for me.” Cora shows the group her new ring.
“What is it?” asks Jean Luc.
“And I believe this is what Khendrig wanted me to have,” says Cora. “I don’t know what the purpose of it is, but I think I needed to have it.”
“What is he?” asks Gamora. “To all this? And trials? When did we sign up for trials?”
“I’m getting the sense he is not a little kid,” says Osrik.
“No, he isn’t. No, we didn’t. But there were seven doors, and there are perhaps trials that each of us could face,” Cora says.
“But why would he do that?” Gamora asks.
“Do you recall how there seems to be a gnome salesman who appeared just at the right time to offer us help or provide us with things we need?”
“But he was tangible. He was there. We rescued him,” Gamora protests.
“Yes,” says Cora, “and then he disappeared.”
“Yeah, because he ran off with you and then got kidnapped or something.”
“Again, I can’t explain it all, because I myself don’t understand it all.”
“There’s more to it,” Reven explains
“What, then? Enlighten me,” Gamora asks. “Feel free.”
“When Khendrig grabbed our hands back in the Underdark, we got the sense that we had already been through all of this, already, before.”
“Well, I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m pretty sure I’m just doing my thing right now. How is that even a possibility?” asks Gamora.
“It’s hard to explain because I myself do not understand it,” says Cora. “I know it sounds crazy.”
“How can we have done something already if we’re just doing it now?” asks Gamora.
“Time works in mysterious ways,” says Reven.
“What if you two had died down there?” asks Osrik.
“I don’t know. But do you remember when Khendrig pressed those buttons on the pillar, as though he knew exactly what to do?” Reven sees heads nod. “It’s because he’d done it before.”
“But then how did he learn how to do it that time?” Osrik asks.
“I don’t know,” answers Reven.
“We don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers,” says Cora. “I trust him. He has been there at all the most crucial parts of my life where he has saved my life.”
“I don’t think I’ve met Khendrig before,” says Vera.
“No,” says Reven.
“Because you met me right after he disappeared. Remember, at the hill?” explains Cora. “Remember when I rode off with him?”
“Yeah,” says Gamora. “Then he went missing, and you didn’t exactly tell us what happened.”
“Or…” says Osrik, “Did he go missing?”
“I don’t know what happened to him. He literally vanished into thin air. What also happened, and I also cannot explain this, is I met someone who looked like he took me back in time to rescue Khendrig.” Cora inadvertently looks at Vera when she says this. “And I was the one who put him in the spot where we found him.”
Gamora appears confused. She says, “Okay, I mean I’m not the dumbest, but I’m certainly not the smartest either, and I so don’t understand how that’s possible.”
“I don’t understand it myself, either,” says Cora. “If you want me to be honest, I don’t understand it all…”
“How come we didn’t see you then?“ asks Osrik.
“I had left before…” Cora begins to explain when Gamora notices the purple haired ghostly image of the being that looks like Vera. She stands there in her white robe listening intently behind the druid.
Gamora turns to her, “You care about her and you protect her? She’s one of us. Help us. I know you can do something to help us.”
The others look at Gamora yell at thin air and everyone seems either confused or concerned.
“Cora, I’d take it easy on Gamora,” Reven says quietly.
At that moment Vera’s purple eyes glow and begin to shift green as the green in her hair melts and begins to revel a purple color. Vera’s kind and friendly posture shift to a more confident yet relaxed posture with an expression of amusement. It is clear that this is not the same person anymore.
Gamora sees the image of the green haired Vera appear where the other once stood. She looks at the new Vera. “Help us understand.”
“Who are we looking at now? Who are you?” Reven asks cautiously.
“Selvriane,” she says.
“But this is the same Selvriane I know from the past, right?” says Reven.
“No, I’m Rianne,” she says.
“I’m Rianne,” she repeats.
“What? Not Vera? Not Selvriane?” Reven asks, “Just Rianne?”
“Um..No. No. Yes.” Says Rianne obviously annoyed with Reven.
“Explain to me who Rianne is, please,” says Gamora, her tone dark.
Rianne looks at Gamora and grins, “Like we told you before, I protect Sel’Vera.”
“Sel’who?” says Mags
Stop calling me that. I hate that name, snaps Vera. Rianne looks over her shoulder and Gamora sees a frustrated Vera.
“From what?” asks Jean Luc.
“Threats,” says Rianne.
“How do you protect her?”
Riane laughs. “I come out and protect her when I can. When she can’t handle things.”
“And when can she not handle things?” asks Osrik.
“Sometimes things get very difficult,” says Rianne.
“Emotionally? Physically?” presses Osrik.
“That’s a bit personal little man, but sure,” Rianne says.
“Do you have skin in this game? This little adventure that we’re on?” asks Jean Luc.
“Oh, absolutely,” she says with a smile.
“How long has this been going on for?” asks Reven. “Because I thought I knew…”
“Remember when Sel’V…Vera disappeared?” she starts.“Yes,” says Reven.
“Things got more interesting after that.”
“If she’s Vera, what’s your name?” asks Osrik.
“I thought we covered that part,” says Rianne.
“Why did Vera disappear?” asks Jean Luc.“Hmm,” says Rianne, “You guys don’t know the story?”
“Share with us,” says Jean Luc.
“I guess Harlin didn’t bother mentioning it,” says Rianne.
“Harlin didn’t mention you at all,” says Cora.
Rianne smiles and shakes her head, “No surprise there,” she says looking over her shoulder. Gamora notices Vera looking very angry at this exchange.
“I mean he has the letter and he should know everything that happened. Time traveling assassin tries to kill Selvriane, fails to wipe her out and pushes us two years into the future. After that I came out to play,” she says.
Osrik senses she isn’t telling the whole truth and turns to her, “Try again.”
She looks him over a bit impressed, “Okay, I sort of have always been around, but again I’m not going to tell you more than that.”
“Why have you been tasked to be her guardian?” asks Gamora.
“Tasked?” asks Rianne, “I am there to protect Vera.”
“Did you protect other people before her?” asks Jean Luc.
“No,” says Rianne.
“Well who is Selvriane? If there’s Sel’Vera, and Rianne, who is Selvriane?” asks Cora.
“Who stabbed you?” asks Jean Luc.
“I don’t know,” says Rianne.
“Can you describe what he looked like?” asks Reven.
“Oh sure, yeah,” says Rianne. “You know, tall guy, dark hair pulled back, white robe, white sword.”
“Glowing white?” asks Jean Luc.
“Yes, glowing white,” says Rianne.
Jean Luc sighs looking at Cora.
“That’s the man who took me back in time,” says Cora.
“Do you think he’s being helpful?” asks Jean Luc.
“He was being helpful,” says Cora.
“Do you think he was being helpful?” Jean Luc asks Rianne.
“Oh yeah, real helpful trying to stab me in the gut with his sword,” says Rianne.
“But you didn’t die,” Reven points out.
“No, I didn’t die.”
“You got sent in time.”
“Why did you get jumped in time?” Gamora asks.
“The guy said he was basically trying to keep Harlin and Vera apart,” says Rianne.
“What does that have to do with anything?” asks Gamora.
Cora answers, “Because Harlin needed to fulfill a purpose and if she was in his life, he wouldn’t do it.”
“Yeah it seemed something like that,” says Rianne.
“So now it’s like an angelic matchmaker?” asks Reven.
“No,” says Cora, “The impression I got when we went down to the vault? Harlin needed to be there. Harlin was one of the individuals we needed to make sure we succeeded. Remember how Khendrig indicated he had done this several times?”
“Are you… a celestial?” Jean Luc asks Rianne.
She laughs, “No, try again.”
“Did somebody send you to help Vera?” he asks.“No, I came because Vera needed me.”
“But who is Selvriane?” asks Cora again.
Rianne sighs. “I’m Selvriane. Vera’s Selvriane. We are Selvirane”
“So you’re both Selvriane?" Reven asks.
“Yes, I just said that.”
“You’re sent over to protect Vera,” says Cora.
“Summoned? Created?” asks Jean Luc.
“Yeah, sure,” says Rianne.
“So you’ve always been like this?” Reven asks.
“Always been like what?” Rianne says.
“Who created you?” asks Gamora.
“Who created me?” she asks. “Who created you?”
“So is there two or three of you?” asks Cora.
“What? Wouldn’t that be something,” says Rianne.
“If you’re confused by the names Vera is the name she took. She’s hiding from someone, which she obviously has repeated since she can’t shut up about her hiding ring. Her name is Selvriane if you didn’t catch that part before,” Looking to Osrik and Reven.
“Who is she hiding from?” asks Gamora.
“You know… how do you guys not know this stuff?”
“Because you haven’t told us,” Osrik says.
“We haven’t told them,” Cora says.
“I’m sorry,” says Reven, “ Is it our job to tell them everything about you?”
“Well to be fair I’m sure Vera would love to tell you guys, but the short version is – her grandfather is after her. He’s a druid, he’s trying to take our power. He’s evil and crazy, it’s a whole thing.”
“That’s not something you can easily brush off,” says Gamora.
“No,” says Rianne.
“So, do we want to pass the baton around? See who else has some crazy issues?” Reven asks. “Things that they’d like to share?”
“Ooh! Ooh! Yes!” says Jean Luc.
“He was taken over by a book for a while,” says Osrik.
Jean Luc laughs. “There was that.”
“What?” Gamora and Rianne both shout.
“You were there!” Osrik says to Gamora.
“Yeah that was a dark time there,” says Gamora. Recalling the acid spitting dragon-faced Jean Luc and their scuffle.
“Do you remember the very plain looking woman who tried to infiltrate the Well of Dragons and her team was slaughtered?” Jean Luc says.
“Oh you mean the hot elf?” asks Gamora.
Jean Luc blushes a little. “I wouldn’t say she’s hot, she’s acceptable.”
“Vaguely,” says Reven.
“She’s very tall,” says Gamora.
“Oh, are we done talking about me?,” Rianne says with a smirk.
“No,” says Gamora, “This is just part of the thing he’s just…”
“I’m sorry. If I’m stepping on your mojo we can do this later,” Jean Luc says.
“Oh no. I’m good. Pass some of that ale,” Rianne asks.
“Yeah,” says Reven, “I think my brain is literally melted from trying figure your story out. So I’m just going to say, are you with us? If you are…”
“She has a guardian other self, and you…” says Jean Luc looking at Reven.
“Oh yes,” says Reven, “I am a prince from long ago. I traveled through into the future and I had issues with some visions that kinda were killing me, but now I’m better. I’ve been cured.” He shrugs. “All true.”
“What do you mean you saw yourself die?” Jean Luc asks. “Is it something we have to fight?”
Gamora says, “Wait, wait, you traveled… what? How do you travel into the future? It doesn’t make any sense!”
“Technically we are all traveling through time,” Jean Luc says.
“Yeah,” says Gamora, “But forward! Like right now, and now, and now…”
“It’s very simple,” says Reven. “Do you remember my dad?” Most heads nod.
“Are you him?” Osrik asks.
“I am not my father, no. Do you remember when we went into the dark realm and he decided to use this little cube thing? Yeah, that same cube was the very cube that he used the day that I was born to travel quite a few number of years into the future.”
“To what purpose?” asks Gamora.
Reven explains, “It was an accident. There were a lot of things going on with the Spellplague.”
“Well why don’t we just go back and kick Tiamat’s baby ass,” asks Gamora, “and call this a fucking day?”
“Well technically this cube allows you to go different planes. But because the Spellplague was in effect, it did something where it managed to send us through time instead.”
“Wait, how long ago was the Spellplague?” asks Osrik.
“Yeah, I’m that old,” says Reven.
“It began about 95 years ago and ended about 10 years ago,” says Jean Luc.
“That’s why when we were at the council meeting, they couldn’t understand who I was because my father and I vanished 95 years ago,” says Reven.
Mags says, “You know, I thought being a reincarnated dragon was complicated.”
“I knew it! I knew it!” Jean Luc shouts.
“We knew that…” says Osrik.“So you could see how this is complicated,” says Cora.
“Yeah,” says Reven. “A little.”
“But at the end of the day,” Osrik says, “Talis is pretty cute.”
“Alright, so the two big questions we have to ask ourselves right now are what are our next steps, and if they include going back to the Netherese temple to investigate the magical statue more,” says Jean Luc.
“Mulhorand,” interrupts Rianne. “The tomb of Diderius is of Mulhordi origins.”
Jean Luc continues, “Do we tell these people where we are going? We’re going to need to shoehorn more teleportation scrolls out of them.”
“Do you guys know if we have to go there?” asks Gamora.
“He can probably have a vision,” Rianne suggests, indicating Reven.
“You can have visions?!? You have visions?” Gamora asks.
“Guys, you know this,” Reven says. “You saw me suffer from visions in the past. But I can control them now, I believe.”
“What do you see in the future now?” asks Cora.
Reven closes his eyes and focuses to see if he can force a vision. It doesn’t seem to work.
Rianne asks, “Cora, can I see your hand?”
“Why?” asks Cora.
“Give me your hand,” Rianne’s tone is direct and unemotional.
“Okay…” Cora reaches her hand out and Rianne inspects Cora’s ring.
“Hmm. That’s interesting,” Rianne says.
“What do I have that’s interesting? Why did you need to see my hand?” Cora asks.
“I want to understand what you have,” Rianne says.
Cora is put off by Rianne and instinctively lowers a hand to her blade.
“Now now, it’s family time,” says Osrik.
“I don’t know who this person is,” Cora says, indicating Rianne.
Rianne shrugs and takes another sip of ale.
“We’re getting to know this person. Because I think she can help us,” says Gamora.
“We’re taking her into battle whether you trust her or not,” Jean Luc points out.
Behind Rianne Vera shrugs apologetically at Gamora.
“How do we figure out how all this time-jumpy-crazy talk you guys are spewing out factors into things?” Gamora asks. She turns to Jean Luc, “How do we do that? You’re the smart one. How do we do that?”
“I have some research to do, but until we have some sembalance of a theory, we don’t,” he says. “We just push forward.”
Cora says, “Here’s the thing, how do we do that? We still haven’t found the mask, but we do know Talis has it. Also, before you forget, she wants Varram.”
“We could make a trade,” says Jean Luc. “I mean, I told her after this thing was over, but we could lie to her and make it quicker.”
Mags says, “Hey lovebird. Why does she want Varram?”
“I was getting to that. And don’t call me that,” Cora says, “Little stinky pants.”
“My pants don’t stink…” says Mags scoffing at the insult.
“Anyway, when we were much younger during the summer that I met Talis, we all went on an expedition with Varram. He led the expedition,” says Cora. “And we had found a white dragon. Suffice it to say, the dragon was not happy to see us in its lair and attacked and decimated our group. However, Talis was actually successful in negotiating with him and making her friendly towards us and making an alliance for the Cult of the Dragon. What happened though, is Varram used what I can only presume is his influence to silence her and took the credit for befriending the dragon. That’s how he rose so quickly in the ranks and has become the White Wyrmspeaker. Talis has obviously held a grudge since then for him taking the credit for her achievement.”
“Well,” says Jean Luc, “my heart bleeds for her, but…”
“So she doesn’t want to be a part of the Cult anymore,” says Gamora, “but what’s the point of having those masks if she’s not part of the Cult?”
“Do we know what the masks do?” asks Osrik.
“They are still powerful magical items,” says Cora.
“They are exceptionally powerful,” Jean Luc corrects. “A magical weapon might give you two benefits in battle. This mask is capable of six or seven benefits. After a moment he looks around. “If anybody has anything else to confess, we’ll have to do this another time. I’m very fascinated with this book I stole from the temple. It might pertain to some of your predicaments.”
Gamora walks over to Rianne and reaches out her hand. “I’m Gamora. Welcome to the team.” She notices a devilish smile on Rianne and she clasps Gamora’s arm like a warrior.
Cora turns to Jean Luc. “You going to tell us who that woman was? Since we are divulging our history.”
“Oh well, It seemed, uh…It seemed there were more important things to talk about,” he stammers. “If you don’t mind. It’s not important.”
“You obviously have ties to this council so what are they?” Cora says not dropping the subject.
“No. To the council no. To the woman yes. I’m certain I don’t know the nature of her relationship with who is here. My ties are to her,” he says. He takes a breath, “We met in the collage when we were students, and I became smitten with her immediately. She is smart and tough, tough as nails, and um… we had a lot of laughs. She thought she was smarter than me and I let her think so. Yeah and uh, ultimately when it came time consider post-graduate work, she was committed to the more riskiest ventures.”
“What was her name?” Osrik asks.
“Villia Fatedancer,” he answers. “And it couldn’t last… the classroom, the laboratory, the weekends at the stage…”
“Who are you?” Gamora asks Jean Luc.
“She um… she was dedicated to traveling the world and getting her hands on the most dangerous and most absurd ideas. So we bickered and eventually became estranged. Oh I guess I should mention she’s my wife.”
“Wait, like… still?” Gamora asks.
“Um, yeah. So that’s who she is and I haven’t seen her quite some years. She’s wonderful… and I hate her. I hate her so much, but she’s great…” says Jean Luc. The others look at him a bit confused and surprised. “It occurs to me if we were under different circumstances I would like to introduce you all to her, but we wouldn’t even know each other if it were different circumstances. It’s very strange what our lives have become…
“ Wait, how long has it been since you’ve seen her?” asks Mags.
“Oh about… eight years,” he recalls. “We used to exchange letters early on, but…”
“Are you still friendly-ish with each other?” Gamora asks.
“Yes, but I have several years of her adventures to catch up on.”
“You say introducing us to her isn’t high on your list of things to do, but you are saying she done a bit of dungeon delving. Has she come across any that that might be helpful against the Cult?” Gamora asks.
“That is certain it’s a possibility,” says Jean Luc “I didn’t know until the rest of you knew that she was even involved in this struggle.”
“She was sent to infiltrate the Well of Dragons,” Cora adds.
“Certainly she has some information that is helpful to us,” Gamora presses. “And if she is as smart of you say she will have a whole wellspring of information to help us.”
Jean Luc smiles, “That was a very good use for that metaphor, Gamora. I commend you for it.”
“Yes. Yes, it’s possible,” he admits. “But we were just very rude to my friend Leosin. So If we are done here?”
Jean Luc begins to dismiss the tiny hut, when Cora adds, “I think we need to decide what we are going to do in the morning.”