We continue to battle what remains of Onath, our one-time companion. We’re managing to hold our own at first, but there’s an obstruction in the battlefield that—if any of us get caught in it—will rip any of us apart with no hope of revival. There are some close calls, but everyone manages to stay clear of it until Jack is trapped.
He is on the verge of being completely destroyed when Aideena makes a desperate effort—running into the void to save him in her place. In the midst of her gamble, she makes contact with the being that has been whispering in her mind for some time—an elemental being named Imix, who calls himself the God of Flame. He tells her that he will help her save Jack if she will swear a pact to him. Aideena has no time to consider her decision or weigh the consequences of it, so she agrees to it and is briefly turned into a creature of flame and given the ability to enter the void, rescue Jack, and get them both out.
Onath screams when this new version of Aideena comes rushing towards him, while Eben is stunned by the sense that the balance has shifted in some cosmic sense.
There is no time to truly stop and contemplate what has happened—and nothing can be done to stop it at this point anyway—so we continue to fight Onath and eventually kill him. Eben manages to strike the killing blow and, just before he expires, he seems to come back to some semblance of his old self and apologizes.
When Onath is dead, his body suddenly shows the signs of weeks of decay. It’s clear that something dark—the pearl, most likely—has been keeping what was essentially a corpse alive for some time. The pearl remains and is no longer active, so Jack picks it up and stores it with the others. Now that the immediacy of battle is over, we turn to Aideena and begin asking her what happened, and why she’s now no longer a fire elemental.
She answers somewhat tersely, merely saying that she saved Jack. Jack is grateful—as are the rest of us—but we’re also concerned about what happened to her and how she was able to do what she did. She does mention that she heard the voice again and says that he helped her save Jack, but it seems clear that she’s reluctant to say even that much.
Eben will not be deterred and continues to ask her specifically what happened.
Aideena reiterates that she saved Jack, and Eben fires back, saying, “At what cost?”
Aideena, in response, bursts into flame, causing Eben to jump away from her. To this point, I’ve mostly stayed out of the argument, but at this I look at Aideena suspiciously. Jack, in an effort to avert what looks like a massive row in the making, asks Aideena if there’s anything he can do to help her. This calms Aideena somewhat and she reverts back to normal.
Of course, Eben takes that opportunity to provoke Aideena once again, asking her, “Have you sold us out?”
Aideena responds in the negative but manages to not burst into flame once more. Jack, always awkward in social interactions, walks away from the group and uses his Ki focus to speak to the Raven Queen about what’s happened. He doesn’t feel anything, which is very unusual for him.
It’s so remarkable that he turns back to the group and informs us that he is unable to hear her.
The importance of the point that Jack is trying to make is disregarded for the ensuing confrontation between Aideen and Eben. He tells her that the gods are worried and explains further by saying that when she saved Jack, he became aware of some great shift in a cosmic balance of power.
This involves the rest of us in the argumentative discussion over what Eben’s perception could mean and what, exactly, Aideena did and why she’s so reluctant to discuss it. After some lengthy debate, Aideena finally admits that she swore herself to Imix, but that she isn’t really sure what that entails.
This infuriates Eben, who storms off.
The rest of us prepare to get some rest after a long day. I have my usual nightmare.
In the morning, Jack awakes and approaches Eben, telling him, “I have spoken with her. I can feel for the pearls now. I asked her if we were doing the right thing and she said yes. She said all of us have done right by her.”
Eben looks relieved to hear this and thanks Jack for telling him. Jack tells him that he didn’t receive any further feathers, but offers the remaining mundane feathers as a symbol of the Raven Queen. Eben demurs, finally only accepting one and giving the rest back to Jack.
Their conversation completed, Jack approaches the rest of the group and recounts his conversation with the Raven Queen. He also reminds everyone that we need to go very far to the south to find the next pearl.
Targoth, however, wants to return to Easar and speak with Saresh again about the mountain that he saw in the distance. We all agree that going back through the portal makes the most sense at the current time. Before we head back, Eben brusquely apologizes to Aideena for being so hard on her the night before.
Aideena accepts his apology and we begin the journey back to the temple that houses the portal.
When we arrive, we take the time to explore more of it than we did when we were here before. As we’re looking around, we find a room with a deep shaft. When we look down, the shaft is decorated with reliefs depicting three different scenes. We also hear battle sounds echoing up from the bottom and decide we should explore the lower level.
One other thing we hear is the sound of men shouting a battle cry, “For Yvanthor!” Targoth thinks it’s strange since Yvanthor was the capital of Arkhosia and hasn’t existed in a very long time.
We set up some ropes so we can make it to the lower level. Targoth, Jack, and Aideena are the first to be lowered into the chamber. What they see is a large hall, silent and still, with lots of dust. It appears to have once been a stronghold and a residence, but Targoth doesn’t see any recognizable names. After a moment of looking around, Targoth calls up that the hall appears to be empty.
Eben and I follow the rest of the party to the lower level and look around. It’s fairly dark, and the others need a sun rod to be able to see where they’re going. Targoth leads us into a hallway off the main hall and we don’t get far before we hear more noises and voices in draconic and abyssal.
When we round one corner of the hall, we begin to see signs—most prominently, the skeletons of long dead Tieflings and dragonborn—of a battle that happened here long ago. Targoth, at this moment, has a vision, seeing the place as it once was. In his vision, Targoth sees a huge dragon in the reception chamber readying for battle. He also sees the beginning of a battle between Tieflings and dragonborn.
Just after seeing these things, the skeletons of the Tieflings and dragonborn animate and attack. We quickly call out to the dragonborn soldiers and side with them and together, we’re able to stop the Tiefling skeletons. Once the battle is over, the skeletons become inanimate again and we try to determine what’s happening—if this is just an echo like the battle in Cendriane, or if this is something else. Eben discerns that there’s divine energy, but that is not the only energy source he feels. He tells us that he’s never felt anything like it.
Meanwhile, Targoth experiences an afterimage, echo, or remnants of Io, the god of the dragonborn. It’s clear, though, that Io is not the only divine energy present. The other presence, according to Aideena, feels more raw and primal, similar to what she experienced when she heard the voice of Imix.
We decide to continue moving forward and eventually find ourselves in the receiving chamber. There are tall doors with the engraving of a silver dragon on them. We all make an effort to open them, but they do not budge and there is seemingly no mechanism for opening them.
Those of the party who are more attuned to the divine feel a strong divine energy emanating from behind the doors. It seems to be the signature that we’ve identified as Io and it’s stronger here than the mysterious other signature.
At this moment, the standard gives Targoth a vision of another chamber within the complex, one that relates to the carvings on the wall of the shaft that we came down. From the standard, Targoth knows that this room is not the one behind the doors and that it’s one we need to find if we want to have any hope of opening the doors in the main hall.
So, because of that, we press on and continue to explore the halls and other doors that we come across. The first one we try has nothing in it, and in the second we find a room that is dominated by three mirrors—one large one on each wall. The room itself is surprisingly free of the dust that seems to be omnipresent elsewhere. On the fourth wall is a fresco which depicts a desert and a sunken city with giant flaming stones falling from the sky.
Targoth is able to determine that the city depicted is Tarnavulg, the city that was destroyed by the Green Dragon. But the fresco depicts a human woman dressed in green with her arms raised towards the sky as though she’s calling down the flaming stones.
In the mirror opposite the fresco, it appears fresher and not worn with time. When I step close to get a better look, it attacks my mind and suddenly I vanish into the mirror. I turn around and look back at the fresco. It now looks as though it has come to life and I’m able to clearly see all of the details and watch as the events depicted happen in front of me.. I’m able to get a close look at the human woman’s face and it’s one I recognize: Viri.
In the meantime, when I vanished from the room, a skeleton falls out from the mirror and onto the ground. In shock, Targoth comes racing towards the mirror and finds himself within it, spitting me back out into the room.
When he doesn’t immediately appear, the rest of us get worried, except for me, who is still affected by being within the mirror and wanting to return.
While Targoth is within the world of the mirror, he goes exploring, visiting the audience chamber and spotting a massive white dragon that he knows is Zubukiel. For him, only minutes pass, but for those of us on the outside of the mirror, hours pass without any sign of Targoth. Aideena and Jack, especially are extremely concerned. Aideena decides to attack one of the mirrors—not the one that Targoth went through—and, with Jack’s help—it’s destroyed.
Targoth doesn’t reappear when the mirror is destroyed and that is very worrying to everyone but me, who is still fixated on returning.
Aideena next tries to talk to the mirror, but there is no sentience to reason with. She does, however, feel a pull towards the mirror—a compulsion to step closer—when she tries to engage with it arcanely.
At this point, I run back into the mirror and, unfortunately, Targoth doesn’t reappear outside of the mirror. He does, however, finish exploring the chamber from the other side and I greet him when I see him, asking him where he’s been and what’s been taking him so long. Through our conversation, we discover that our perception of time is vastly different on either side of the mirror.
We turn to the mirror and try to communicate with the others, but it’s clear that we won’t be able to. At this moment, Jack makes the decision to attack the mirror I went through and, with every bit of damage he does to the mirror, I start to bleed. I send him a betrayed look and he finally stops when he notices the blood. We appear to be at an impasse now, with no known way of getting someone out of the mirror without sacrificing someone else.
Aideena and Jack decide that they should get Targoth out because he and Aideena could then confer about what to do, so Jack sacrifices himself and goes through the mirror, only for Targoth to exchange a short conversation with Aideena and then come back through the mirror I entered, allowing me to exit. Aideena decides that perhaps Targoth would—out of all of the party—be best able to figure out a way to allow us all out of the mirror, so she enters the one Targoth went through, sending him back into the real world.
Targoth then exits the mirror and leaves the room to retrieve some of the reconstituted dragonborns we’d fought with earlier. He asks them to go into the mirrors for us and they agree. When they enter, Aideena and Jack are freed. In the mirrors, they appear to be alive again. As a farewell, we destroy the remaining two mirrors in the room.
As we leave the room, we take a moment to fill the others in on Viri’s appearance in the fresco and Targoth muses on the fact that The Green Dragon has always sounded a bit like an honorific.
We then come to another set of doors that have runes on it. Targoth goes up to them and is attacked, his arm receiving necrotic damage. Aideena informs us that the runes on the door say that “only those who are righteous may enter.”
We give these doors a wide berth and continue on, finding another set of doors, which appear to be the main doors to the room we just attempted to enter. This time, the doors do not attack us. On the ground, there are three empty bowls and Targoth mentions that this room is from the vision the standard gave him.
The room is also clearly the source of the divine energy of Io.
We attempt to figure out what we should do when Targoth approaches the green bowl. When he steps into it, he has a vision of an old man. The vision fades and the bowl fades to an alabaster color.
Targoth then moves to the blue bowl and has another vision, after which the bowl again fades to alabaster. The same happens when he moves to the last bowl.
After, Targoth tells us that he doesn’t think Io is completely gone from the world because he saw visions confirming this.
Once all of the bowls have changed, we move to the main hall to find that the doors to the audience chamber are now open. Within, we can see a huge creature of bone. It speaks, revealing to us that it’s a dragon that was meant to protect this stronghold and that it intends to kill Targoth. It and its two servants attack us.
We battle for some time before we finally slay Flame the boney dragon. Once the dragon is dead, we take stock of the large chamber.
There is a simulacrum at the far end and Eben goes to get a closer look. He spots some gems that appear to be rather ordinary, but he also sees five astral diamonds. He calls Jack over, who attempts to pry one of them from the simulacrum. It reacts automatically, attempting to attack us.
We tell Targoth to try becoming the master of the simulacrum and it works. He doesn’t even need to speak to the thing before it stops attacking us and allows us to get closer. Targoth then uses dragon break on the diamonds and we are then able to remove them. Once we do, the simulacrum goes dim and any semblance of life or sentience leaves it.
After this, we leave the audience chamber and continue to explore the lower level. We discover one last room which appears to contain a pile of riches. I enter the room and notice some scratches and scrapes along the wall. We don’t see any way of triggering a trap, so we move closer to the treasure. Suddenly, the walls begin to close in and we don’t appear to have any way of escaping being crushed. Aideena is able to save us, though, and teleport the party back into the hall.
Upon further reflection, we realize that the horde was really very modest and that—this intending to be a stronghold and not a treasury—there was unlikely to even be a horde in the first place.
We decide that we’ve explored all we can and that it’s time to be getting back to the portal. We make our way without incident to our ropes and head back up them and to the portal without incident. Similarly, we have no difficulties going through the portal and back to Easar, where we reemerge in Saresh’s portal room.
We greet them and explain our adventures to them from the last time we saw them. We especially make a point of telling Saresh what we discovered about the green dragon. He is very surprised by that information. He says that Arkhosia would have fallen much sooner if not for the victory at Tarnavulg.
We then turn to other topics, specifically where Solange has been. She tells us that she’s penetrated the nine hells, looking for Jack’s sister, and she tells us that we must get her back. Jack clearly agrees, and the rest of us are willing, so we discuss what we should do next.
After some discussion about how to make our way into the nine hells, we agree that the best way is to take a portal to a city far in the north where a crossing into the Shadowfell is nearby. This will take us to Gloomwrought and, from there, we should be able to find a way into hell.
This plan of action agreed upon, we discuss yet another subject, like how Druuk is part of the Borderlanders. Darren tells us that the Borderlanders are now an aid group and have done much good in the ravaged capital, but we’re all very suspicious given our past history. We also get an update on what’s been happening in Easar. We learn that the West Warrens are still in chaos, but that most other areas of the city are more settled.
Targoth also tells Saresh about the visions he had, and Saresh wants us to find Viri so that we can ask her some questions about what she was doing in Tarnavulg.
While they’re discussing that, Aideena pulls Solange aside and asks her what hell is like. Solange tells her a bit, and also theorizes that Helena might have been taken by Maphestopheles. She tells the group at large that someone should be able to help us find the crossing into the Shadowfell and that she will contact us once we’re through.
Jack and Darren have a private conversation in which Jack asks Darren to come with us and Darren is excited to be asked and to have the opportunity to spend time with Jack. We spend the rest of the evening preparing for our next trip—gathering clothing, rations, sun rods and anything else we think we’ll need on the journey.
The next morning, we head back up to the portal room. Solange tells us that she’ll send us a raven if she can find a guide to help us in the hells. We then say our goodbyes to Solange and Saresh and then enter the portal.
We find ourselves at a vacant watchtower. It’s cold here and there’s snow and ice on the ground—a stark contrast to the desert we were just in. The mountain path the goes between the two towers is churned and muddy, and the tracks are large and wide with clearly delineated feet that appear flat. The party theorizes that these are mammoth and frost giant tracks.
This theory is confirmed when some frost giants rumble up the path towards us. The group quickly splits into two and hides in separate towers. This goes well for us until, inexplicably, Jack and Darren leave their tower and attack the giants.
With them is an ice elemental that speaks to Aideena and tries to make a deal with her, seeing her as something of a kindred spirit. Once the frost giants have been slain, we agree to make a deal with the elemental: we will spare his life in exchange for transport to Gloomwrought.
Aideena doesn’t know—nor do the rest of us—if the elemental is sincere, but we decide to trust it for the time being. We then begin on the road to the Gloomwrought.