Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Final Arrangements, Part 7

Sunday, Readying 2, 553 CY (51 AN)

Time passes.

Bosabrieln and Peren accompany Regthor Longbeard as he and his growing band travel across the planes, recruiting dwarves from every world they visit. Their forces are thousands strong by the time they return to Sigil almost a month and a half later. (Of course, Bosabrieln and Peren have made a few stops in Sigil in the intervening weeks, never staying more than a night or two.)

Although they see many strange and wondrous lands on their journey, they are most attentive to Zaghark, Regthor Longbeard’s new companion. A strange dwarven crone they picked up along the way, they quickly surmise that she is a representative of Regthor’s “benefactors” — “benefactors” in this case being a euphemism for Tetposmeton.

Meanwhile, Bezaldooz and Torinn keep their preparations and maintain a low profile. On Moonday, Readying 24, they pay a visit to Dawnslight, knowing that Sally’s child was likely born by now. They knock on the door to her house, and are greeted by her gruff father, who looks roughly as displeased to see them as ever. (Although perhaps not nearly so displeased as he might be were Bosabrieln there. Still, he seems disappointed that Bosabrieln is not present.) Torinn asks if they may see the child, and he grants entry to them both. When they arrive, Sally is nursing the babe beneath a blanket. They give greeting to her, and she excuses herself for a moment while she finishes. She then shows them the child: a thin, light-haired baby with just a hint of the ethereal features of the fey. She has apparently named the child Rhonwen. They make introductions — the baby grasps Torinn’s finger with a strong grip — and both Torinn and Bezaldooz leave 10 platinum pieces each for little Rhonwen. (Bezaldooz also leaves the obsidian pawn as a trinket for the child.) Torinn notes that there is more money than that in their futures, but he doesn’t want to make them targets for thieves. After a brief conversation, they take their leave, although Bezaldooz uses prestidigitation to conjure fireworks when he leaves, which seems to frighten little Rhonwen. That prompts the pair to leave a little quicker.

Before they go, Sally tells them to send her love to Bosie.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell reconvene on Moonday, Coldeven 10, at The Silver Tankard in Sigil. Bosabrieln and Peren have returned, having gathered a force of thousands of dwarves — an entire army. They expect to march upon Maldev within a week. They find themselves at dinner when Bosabrieln’s pack shimmers with a rainbow-hued light. Three dwarves appear, summoned by the snailstone: one is a female dwarf with pink hair and a pink beard, one is a hirsuite shirtless male dwarf, and one is a dwarf wearing black armor shaped like a skull. (The last carries an empty glass flask shaped like a hand with a cork in the extended middle finger.) After the initial chaos of their arrival, they introduce themselves as Boudica (Boudie to her friends), Cian Cuhullin, and Gerald Edward Mander (or Ger E. Mander), respectively. Boudica and Cian appear to be siblings who have not seen each other for some time, although Cian appears to have lost his language since they last met, as he usually utters either his own name or gibberish when he speaks. (He seems to understand Common all right.) Gerald attempts to impress everyone with a coin trick, although he fumbles it, prompting Cian to gesture at the mistake.

After a bit of conversation, a voice emanates, echoing in the heads of those present — it is Artamas, a collective of several hundred snails with silver shells that Gerald carries in a lacquered box in his pack. They apparently were also summoned by the snailstone, and seem to have knowledge of the device. In response, Torinn pulls out his jar of glowworms, only to find that the jar is filled with black ash. While the glowworm colony was largely self-sustaining in its substrate, Torinn did not think to check the jar after his first encounter with Kiaransalee.

After finishing their conversation — during which time Gerald gets Aratha to refill his hand flask with dwarven whiskey — the Shields decide to discuss their plans with Regthor Longbeard. His inn room at The Silver Tankard has become something of an impromptu office, and they find him with Travok and Zaghark. Zaghark seems to respond to Boudica’s presence, cackling about meeting “The Runebound Witch” in person. Boudica asks who this person might be, which seems to amuse Zaghark more, as she replies that “Who?” is the question that haunts Boudica. After repeating “Who?” several times, Travok ushers her out of the room as she continues to cackle. Before she leaves, Boudica suspiciously asks if Zaghark has any sisters, to which she replies that she has many.

After Travok ushers Zaghark away from an increasingly annoyed Regthor, the Shields and their newly-summoned allies get down to cases. Regthor indicates he has determined an attack plan; the Shields are free to amend it, but based on his knowledge of the site, he has lightly sketched how he expects things to go. Their main force will assault the entrance to Kandelspire, making their way through the outer defenses. As Bosabrieln recruited both Galothel and Moridal Delhig, Regthor thinks Aratha and Galothel can assault the guard towers and open the outer gate, while sappers and the “benefactors” can break the inner gate. (And being skilled with infiltration, Moridal can no doubt assist with logistics, in addition to the many engineers and locksmiths they have assembled.)

As for the Shields of the Sorrowfell, the main force is probably going to act as a distraction for their entry, as they’re probably the only ones who can stand toe-to-toe with Kiaransalee. There is a cave network a few miles from Kandelspire, and it leads to a deepearth river that passes by an old deepearth outpost beneath Kandelspire. The likely best way to gain entry is to take a keelboat down the river, infiltrate the underground outpost, gain access to the Great Hall, and from there, access the palace. Beyanae’s sources indicate Kiaransalee is using the palace as her base of operations, and so it’s a relatively straight shot from the river to the goddess herself.

However, the while the way is short and likely to be devoid of traps, it is likely to be well-defended. The ghosts of a city’s worth of dwarves linger in that place, and Kiaransalee’s banshees can smell the living, so the odds are great that the Shields will end up having to fight their way through a city full of ghosts. Beyanae likely has more specific information, and so they should meet with her on the morrow. After asking a couple of cursory questions, the Shields return to main floor of The Silver Tankard to unwind and meet their new associates.

The next morning, the Shields meet with Regthor and Beyanae. Beyanae indicates that she will be traveling with them to Guldor, as she has nothing left for her here when the time comes. She will ensure they have access to the portal between Sigil and Guldor, and then make the march from the gate to Kandelspire in Maldev. As for Kiaransalee’s defenses, she does not have much to add to what Regthor mentioned yesterday: she is served by legions of ghosts and banshees, and the banshees can sense the living. Additionally, if Kiaransalee is aware they are in the city, she can begin targeting them with death magic, attacking them with killing words. (Bosabrieln is familiar with power word kill, and so notes that they will have to remain awake and alert to avoid it enervating magic; the slightest faltering can result in one of them falling victim to it, and death by the goddess’ hand is difficult to reverse.) Given these things in tandem, they are best advised to take the city by stealth as long as they are able; the banshees will smell them eventually, but until they do, the goddess cannot target them with death magic, and they will not be swarmed by undead. Bezaldooz wonders if mind blank would prevent them from being targeted by Kiaransalee, and while Beyanae suspects the goddess could still sense their presence in her domain, it’s probably worth attempting.

With as much preparation as they think they will be able to get, the Shields continue their planning for the week. Bosabrieln spends time tracking down magic item merchants, eventually being introduced to a strange being in an opulent palace offering items such as a hammer of thunderbolts, a horn of Valhalla, or a ring of invisibility. Bosabrieln lacks the funds for such grandiose items, instead just wanting as many healing potions as he can find. The entity asks that he grant him a day to track down such items; the following day, he offers the Shields eight potions of superior healing for 8,000gp. They purchase them and distribute the potions among the party.

The day before the battle is to take place, they rest in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion. Bezaldooz casts mind blank on himself, Bosabrieln, and Torinn, while Boudica prepares a heroes’ feastwater for the lot of them.

On Waterday, Coldeven 19, everything is in place. Columns of dwarves from across the multiverse make the pilgrimage towards The Lady’s Ward, where Beyanae activates the portal in an abandoned storefront, leading to a cavern on Guldor. The Shields and their hours emerge in the lands of Guldor: spired mountains reaching towards fat, lazily-floating stars in a bluish-purple sky. (When they cross, they again get that sinking feeling in their guts they felt on Solstice during the Battle of Scandshar, a feeling that perhaps they should just quit and die.) It takes hours for the dwarves to process through — there are a couple of engagements with ghosts and wandering gnolls in the meantime — and when they finally do, Regthor briefly speaks. Addressing all present, he indicates that today is the day all present march into history. What they do today represents a stand against tyranny, a blow struck on behalf of Moradin and all dwarvenkind. If they die, they die as dwarves in dwarven lands. But no more land must be given to the forces of the Spider Queen; no retreat, the defenders must stand their ground and press ever onward.

With that, the dwarves march, while the Shields and their summoned allies depart from the main group, heading towards the caverns. After a couple of hours, they find themselves at the cave. As the distant sounds of battle begin to echo through the spire-like mountains, the Shields make their way into the deeps. They follow passages for another hour until they arrive at the underground river. Peren produces the keelboat from his portable hole, and they begin to row downstream.

As they approach the arranged spot, Peren invokes pass without trace to keep the party less obtrusive. Reaching a bend in the river, they spot a handful of floating, spectral figures lurking. Peren leaps out of the boat, and with his ring of water walking, dashes across the river to investigate. Two of the figures appear to be grim, shadowy figures with piercing red pinpoints of light for eyes; their wretched shadowed bodies look almost robed, but it is merely a nimbus of darkness surrounding them. (They look similar to the ghosts who attacked the Shields in Morana the Forsaken’s fortress.) In the middle is a ghostly woman with elfin features and a ghoulish appearance; she comments to the others that there are definitely two groups of the living, and they have been so persistently noticeable that they must be coming this way.

Peren retreats to inform the others, and as they’re about to make their move, Bosabrieln’s snailstone shimmers and Gerald (and Artamas) disappears in a flash of rainbow-colored light. His potion of superior healing drops into the boat where he sat. Undaunted, Bosabrieln gathers the potion, and they prepare to move. Peren casts water walk, and the six leave the boat, taking cover as it floats past the ghosts. As the ghosts note the boat and bid each other to be ready, the Shields attack.

What follows is an increasingly-desperate fight to breach Maldev and reach the goddess Kiaransalee. The Shields engage the ghosts and round the corner to find the rotting remains of a subterranean harbor, half-sunken hulks standing dead in the small cove. A chain is clasped across the harbor, preventing ships from accessing the harbor by easily-traversible by humanoids. Boudica turns into an earth elemental made of pink quartz as battle is joined, wading into battle with a ferocity that is surprising for her bubbly demeanor and pleasant appearance. Cian partially transforms into a toothed beast as his rage overtakes him, leading him into combat with his greatsword and he savages enemies with both his sword and his slavering jaws.

Although the three ghosts guarding the entrance are quickly slain, more emerge from the dead city — waves of banshees and dwarven ghosts. (After getting a good look at the interlopers, one of the banshees flees in the opposite direction, no doubt to inform Kiaransalee of their arrival.) Waves collapse against the Shields of the Sorrowfell, and while they manage to conquer them, there are setbacks: a banshee wails and Bosabrieln falls unconscious, his life force ebbing away until Boudica heals him, while a dwarven ghost manages to possess Peren and set him against Cian. Cian holds him fast until Boudica arrives and knocks the ghost out of Peren with a greater restoration. They rush into the dead port town, encountering a contingent of ghostly dwarven legionnaires. The ghosts march into battle without fear, but one by one, they are discorporated by sword and spell.

When the dust settles, the fighters take a moment to rest. (But not too long, as they know they are subject to a clock they cannot see.) Bosabrieln sings a quick song of healing for himself and drinks several of the potions of superior healing before they move onward, not wanting to get slain by Kiaransalee’s killing words. They then open the door into the city, filing into a hallway filled with murder holes in the walls. As Cian moves, he is pelted by acidic, bloody spit, which he largely ignores as he begins to move. He sees a portcullis ahead with a skinless corpse standing beyond, the creature dripping hissing blood on dwarven stonework. He crouches and charges forward, crashing through the portcullis. While a fireball does not slay the creatures in the walls, the engagement is still brief: they quickly dispatch the skinless corpse ahead. As it falls, a dark elf woman steps from a side room, coming face-to-face with Peren. She is dressed in the manner of a priestess, carrying a wicked-looking dagger. She recognizes Peren’s helm — and clearly knows the Shields are here — but before she can flee or make any sort of preparations, she quickly falls before the Shields. Torinn closes the door from which she exited, only for doors on either side of the hallway to be opened by the scorched and injured skinless corpses who remain. They, too, are quickly slain, and the Shields move forward.

As they ascend the stairs, the next section of hallway appears to be punctuated by doors, evidently acting as some manner of city street. Banshees sit on the benches while a contingent of ghostly legionnaires march in the street. Battle is joined, and as Bezaldooz launches a fireball, the banshees wail (again dropping Bosabrieln, who is quickly revived by Boudica) and ghosts begin flooding from the buildings. A single yochlol arrives from a side alley to investigate the commotion, and the Shields begin doing what they do best, cutting their way through ghosts and hammering the street with spells. In seconds, the street is silent, the battle only marked by the Shields’ increasing fatigue, the ringing in their ears, and the pockmarked buildings displaying the evidence of a battle. They again take a moment to reorient themselves and invoke magic to regain their strength, but there is no time to rest. They press onward.

As they ascend to street level, they find themselves in the Great Hall. Completely dark, what little they can see suggests it was once magnificent, a grandiose collection of buildings, a wonder of dwarven architecture and engineering. It is now largely silent, save for the growing sounds of battle to their distant left. As they slink forward, about to dash for the palace, they hear the whispers of Kiaransalee as she begins speaking seductive, killing words at them. They manage to resist her call to death as they process to the palace.

The gates are closed: high, adamantium structures of magnificent dwarven craftsmanship. Two ghostly dwarves stand guard, and the Shields engage them. Battle is swift but surprisingly troublesome as the dwarf ghosts summon additional dwarven ghosts to their aid to battle. In seconds, the ghosts are discorporated, and Boudica and Torinn begin destroying the doors to gain access. When the doors collapse, they find themselves in a grand entryway with two stairs leading upwards. As they enter the hall, dwarven ghosts pop up at the balcony to the second story, firing spectral crossbow bolts at them, while a horde of dwarf ghosts pour through the walls. Peren invokes a wall of fire to keep the dwarf yeomen from peppering them with spectral bolts, and the Shields begin doing their best to move past the ghosts. Cian runs for the stairwell and jumps onto the second story balcony as Peren begins moving to take out the ghosts blocking the stairwells. While he makes short work of the ghosts upon the stair, one of the ghosts manages to possess Boudica in earth elemental form, and banshees begin pouring out of the second story walls. Torinn is forced to attack the earth elemental, keeping Boudica from moving while the others handle the escalating ghost situation. Seeing how things are progressing, Cian leaps back to the floor as the banshees shriek, dropping Peren. One of the yeoman ghosts in the balcony fires on his prone body, although it fortunately does not kill him. Torinn manages to destroy Boudica’s earth elemental shell, returning her to Boudie’s form and knocking the ghost out of her. With the group back to normal, they restore Peren to health and manage to mop the banshees without much difficulty.

As the Shields begin pouring up the stairs, they launch attacks on the two ghostly yeomen on the balcony. As they carve their way through, Torinn kicks open the door to find two dark elf wizards who immediately begin hammering the open doorway with spells. However, the spells are less than effective — one does something that does not affect Torinn at all, while the other conjures a cloudkill while most of the Shields are still out of range — and they are quickly slain.

Opening the next door reveals a great hall, lined by dwarven ghosts. Suspecting this is the throne room, the Shields begin their final assault. Torinn rushes into the room, drawing fire from most of the dwarf ghosts while Peren conjures a wall of fire to block line of sight into or out of the room.. However, Kiaransalee whispers at the far end of the room, invoking additional ghosts to her aid as banshees and wraiths begin their onslaught. Two of the wraiths phase through the walls to outflank the party while the banshees move into their midst and scream. Most of the party resists the horrific onslaught, but Bezaldooz collapses. While Bosabrieln and Boudica soon have him on his feet, it is short lived as Kiaransalee speaks a killing word, reducing the gnome wizard to a pile of fine black ash.

When the Shields begin to feel panic rise, Bosabrieln’s pack shimmers and Gerald reappears behind the back rank of the party and the wraiths threatening it, fiddling with a coin. He drops the coin to draw his mace and begin hammering the hungry ghosts. As the Shields begin working their way through the crowd, an additional seven wraiths appear. Cian makes a run for it, leaping over them to face the death-goddess herself. As she appeared in Scandshar, she is resplendent: a lovely dark elf wielding a wicked-looking dagger and adorned only in sheer veils and silver jewelry. He feels his life force begin to ebb as he approaches, but his rage drives him to mercilessly attack her. Soon, the Shields begin punching through the defensive line, discorporating enough of the wraiths so that Torinn can rush the goddess, his axe screaming in triumph.

The Shields and their allies manage to filter into the throne room, still beset on all sides by hungry ghosts. But Gerald and Peren join the fray, rushing into the combat with the goddess herself, hammering her under unrelenting weapon blows while the surviving bard and druid endeavor to hold off the last of the ghosts. As Bosabrieln appears increasingly decrepit from repeated enervation by hungry wraiths — he would swear the wraith sucking his essence whispers in Vianibrar’s voice — Torinn finally lands the crucial blow. His axe cleaves through the goddess as she screams and erupts into motes of black energy, shreds of sheer fabric, and a clatter of silver jewelry. His axe screams in jubilation.

No more ghosts emerge after that, and the remaining ghosts seem confused and lessened. The Shields quickly pacify the throne room, and all is still. Torinn collapses, sitting when the last wraith discorporates.

Exhausted, the Shields have only a few minutes to rest. Peren sets about gathering Bezaldooz’s ashes for resurrection, and gathering his equipment. Time passes — maybe five minutes, maybe fifteen, maybe thirty, it’s hard to tell — before they hear the sounds of battle drawing closer to their location. The dwarves finally push through the disorganized ghosts in the Great Hall. The city is far from pacified, but at this moment, the hardest part of their labors are complete.

Exhausted and bloodied, the Shields of the Sorrowfell spend the next hour or two assisting the dwarves in driving away the remaining ghosts from the Great Hall and any other critical areas before the dwarves begin to secure a perimeter and make camp. The dwarves tap kegs and begin singing low dwarven songs as the camp erupts in celebration. Not knowing how much longer they have, those summoned by the snailstone partake briefly but begin saying their farewells. Gerald performs a final coin trick — modestly impressive, although Cian again points out the mistake. Boudica and Cian, siblings reunited by the snailstone, say farewell, and Boudica expresses that she hopes to find him again. (Cian does not speak, only pressing a strange iron coin into her hands. She notes the weight of the coin seems heavy in a way she cannot fully describe.) Bosabrieln embraces Boudica, telling her that if they meet again, they simply must go shopping.

Before long, the snailstone shimmers and Boudica, Cian, and Gerald are summoned away again from whence they came. As the party continues, Bosabrieln begins preparing a ritual space to return Bezaldooz to life…

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