Freeday, Planting 21, 553 CY (51 AN)
Certain that their plans are complete but that the Shields of the Sorrowfell will not travel to Dingue tomorrow, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn spend the rest of the day relaxing before retiring for bed.
The next day, Bezaldooz teleports the Shields of the Sorrowfell to Duchy Jepson, where they all go their separate ways, whether to drink or research or speak to Vianibrar. Torinn goes to “retrieve the shield guardian,” but in truth travels to the Wizard’s Tower. Again moved by a force he cannot wholly name, he heads to the basement, traveling to a dead end. As he approaches the wall, the stones part, opening into another space.
It appears to be a circular, stone room organized like a laboratory. The windows, however, overlook a silvery sea and darkened sky — Torinn has been to other realms enough to recognize the Astral Sea, and that this place is no longer in the world. The only inhabitant is a single robed, bronze-scaled dragonborn whom Torinn recognizes from many inn stays with mirrors as bearing a not-insignificant resemblance to himself.
The dragonborn begins interrogating the wary Torinn, and Torinn finds him to be somewhat eccentric, imperious, and unpleasant, but not hostile. The dragonborn introduces himself as Archmagus Iandak Voiddrake, Supplicant of the Quaint and Curious Spheres — or rather, the archwizard’s simulacrum, as the wizard himself has been absent for some time. (Torinn surmises that Iandak himself left several decades ago, probably before the Cackledread War, although the simulacrum has not been keeping close track of time, having abandoned the practice “after a decade or so.” Torinn also notes that the simulacrum has evidently not spoken to another living being in that time, which neatly explains his eccentricities.) He has apparently been continuing experiments in Iandak’s stead, and suspects the elder wizard is likely still alive, although he does not know for certain.
Iandak also inquires about Torinn’s intrusion on the tower, and notes that Torinn must be a partially-activated clone of Iandak. Apparently the wizard was working on some grand spell to ensure his survival, an automated parthenogenesis spell that would seed clones into which he could project his consciousness if anything happened to him. Has Torinn come into contact with large concentrations of magical energy? Torinn says he likely has, which Iandak suspects may have partially activated him. (It explains why he is able to traverse the tower and maybe even why he started manifesting magic.) While Iandak’s simulacrum asks if Torinn knew his father — he did not, which seems to not surprise the wizard — Drusilla remarks that she certainly does not recall mating with a spell.
With that strange revelation, Torinn returns to his main point: he may be in need of a secondary weapon if current events part him from Drusilla. While she balks, Torinn notes that we may all need to make sacrifices to ensure others’ safety. Surely that is something she can understand? She is quiet, and Torinn continues, asking if there is anything Iandak might have available. After some thought, he says there is a blade on the top floor of the tower, but he warns Torinn that it is a prison: the blade imprisons the potent efreeti noble, Padishah Nurhan Solak, whom Iandak defeated and bound some decades ago. The efreeti can be commanded to grant wishes, but if all three wishes should ever be used, the efreeti will be freed and will no doubt seek vengeance. Torinn takes this under advisement, and ascends the tower to seek the blade.
Arriving at the top of the tower, Torinn finds a large room featuring a pool, bookcases, and a table covered in papers. Dominating the center of the room is a statue of an efreeti bearing a scimitar, although the scimitar is clearly a real sword and not part of the statue. Made of black iron, it is sized for the giant genie and clearly has runes along the blade and some sort of markings along the haft. The pommel appears to be a small cage. When Torinn approaches and touches the blade, the statue animates, its stony flesh turning into the ebon form of an efreeti.
Padishah Nurhan Solak gives Torinn an opportunity to take the sword freely if he wishes for the Padishah’s freedom. Torinn retorts that he will happily take the sword without a fight. Neither side compromises.
The genie invokes a spell and transforms into a massive, wormlike reptile creature with blue scales and twelve legs. Torinn begins hacking into it, and although it tries to grab him, it meets with little success before he carves it apart and it transforms back into the Padishah’s form. He summons a fire elemental, but Torinn manages to disrupt the genie’s concentration with his unrelenting assault and he finds that the elemental moves to assist Torinn: although it cannot injure the efreeti, it moves to harry him and tries to pin the genie. The fight does not last long after that, as an increasingly desperate Padishah Solak tries to defend against the lone dragonborn warrior. When defeated, the genie disappears in a puff of ash as his scimitar clatters to the ground. A faint, glowing ember appears in the cage on the pommel, and the runes along the blade glow a dull crimson. Torinn gathers the blade, finding it warm to the touch. Before he leaves, noting that the fire elemental begins setting fire to the books, Torinn grabs several papers from the table in the hopes of rescuing them and perhaps delivering them to Bezaldooz. He then heads back downstairs.
Once again at the base of the tower, he thanks Iandak and explains that there is a nuisance upstairs. Iandak says he will take care of it after Torinn leaves. Torinn likewise notes that he may return here with further questions, and Iandak supposes that he will be able to return the way he came. (Torinn also finds that Drusilla and the sword don’t seem to get along very well, as they occasionally interject and snipe at one another.) With that, Torinn leaves the Astral Sea, returning to the Wizard’s Tower in Duchy Jepson.
Torinn first makes his way to the shops to purchase a plain scabbard for the genie’s scimitar — which is sized like a greatsword for him — and a cloak to hopefully hide the thing. Then making his way to the Shields’ estates, he finds Ekaterina. After she asks if he is well — his armor is scuffed and he appears to have recently seen battle, but he notes he is fine — he inquires with her whether or not she finds the shield guardian useful. She says she does and asks if he needs it back, but he says he does not. He does ask her for one favor, however: he gives her a letter and 500 platinum pieces, and explains to her that if something should happen to him, she should deliver this to someone. The letter explains who it is. Ekaterina agrees and Torinn returns to town to find the others.
Peren instantly notices the new sword and starts inquiring about it, particularly since Torinn doesn’t return with the shield guardian. (He answers, somewhat truthfully, that Ekaterina is still using it.) Bezaldooz joins him in this line of inquiry, and while Torinn shrugs off their questions, he quickly dispenses with the pretense of trying to hide the sword.
That evening, Bezaldooz casts mind blank on them as planned, and everyone retires for the night. Torinn takes the opportunity to study his new sword so that he will best know how to use it in the future. Strangely, he finds that he can now read the runes along the blade, discovering that they are paeans to Padishah Nurhan Solak, written in the language of fire elementals. (The leather wrapped around the hilt is decorated with binding wards written in Draconic.)
The next day, Sunday, Planting 23, the Shields of the Sorrowfell prepare for their journey to Dingue. As previously discussed, the Shields are looking for any escaped slaves from the Coliseum Morpheuon — what the locals call “oneirobound.” Bezaldooz uses the tuning fork attuned to the Plane of Dreams to cast plane shift, and the Shields once again find themselves somewhere else.
As before, the transition to the Plane of Dreams is pleasant and the Shields’ surroundings feel diaphanous and fuzzy. They find themselves in the midst of a bustling market with creatures and vendors from across the planes. Everything is decorated in textiles of all colors, some of them impossible to achieve on the Material Plane, and the vendors sell such things as well. The air smells of the sea and sapphron, although there is a chemical undercurrent that no doubt represents the textile manufacturing process. As for their surroundings, they are in the midst of a super-structure comprising several towers and other buildings floating in the air, radiating from a central point like coral. It is beautiful but similarly impossible to achieve on the Material Plane.
While some travelers reach these buildings by conveyances, several of those present seem able to fly of their own power.
After some discussion, the Shields decide to ask a local merchant about whom best to contact regarding any sort of resistance at the Coliseum Morpheuon. They find a man named Hassan who speaks slowly and seems vaguely confused at their questions — he seems half-asleep himself. (In fact, they notice several of the folk of the market have similar manners, most of those so affected being merchants and other staff.) He recognizes Bosabrieln when he introduces himself and when he asks about the prospect of possibly liberating the oneirobound in the Coliseum Morpheuon, Hassan directs them to the Council of Six in the highest building overlooking the city. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln also ask about flying, and Hassan replies many of those in the city can do it. For emphasis, he awkwardly hovers above the ground, briefly floating about his stall. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln both successfully try, while Torinn is less successful at it. Peren just pulls out his flying carpet for the others to ascend to the Council of Six. (Bezaldooz eschews the carpet, save that he is notably slower than it, so he is eventually convinced to join them.)
Atop the city, they find a domed building, clearly some sort of parliament. Guards wait without, and when Bosabrieln makes his introduction, one goes inside to announce them. He returns, saying the council will see them momentarily. In a few minutes, they are announced (as “Baron Bosabrieln Peredhel Zivkovic Fenn” and his retinue) and invited inside. Within the council chambers, they find several benches facing a raised dais which in turn faces a semicircular platform behind which sit six robed figures with long cowls obscuring their faces. They give greeting, introducing themselves as Generosity, Morality, Patience, Vigor, Concentration, Wisdom, and suggesting they are clearly familiar with the Shields’ accomplishments. It is not long before Bosabrieln broaches the subject of the oneirobound at the Coliseum Morpheuon.
The Council of Six ask their guards and other fellows to leave the room.
Once it is just the Shields and the Council of Six, they get down to cases: the Shields have been threatened by the Khan of Nightmares using the Voracious Visitor, and that, as their reputation suggests, they are opposed to his activities. The Council interjects, noting that to their knowledge, the Voracious Visitor is bound to the Plane of Dreams and cannot travel to the Material Plane. They are in greater danger here than on their home plane. When the Shields say they saw it, the Council of Six asks if they are certain. They admit that it could have been an illusion.
Nevertheless, would it be possible to seek aid from the Council of Six or otherwise coordinate with them?
The Council of Six admits that it has made preparations for trying to awaken and free their own people, for the oneirobound are not free. The oneirobound are dreamers who have wandered too far from their own bodies and into deep dreams, so they are only half-awake, but they are prized for their ability to manipulate dream-stuff. However, this half-awake state makes them very susceptible to suggestion, which unscrupulous sorts use to their advantage. (The uses of a race of pliant beings able to create any object at will is likely self-evident.) The Council of Six is not yet ready to move on their plans to free the oneirobound, as they have been waiting for the Damnation Epoch, the Coliseum Morpheuon’s biggest event that only occurs every hundred years. (It is evidently a tournament to win the Cup of Dreams, an artifact that produces one wish a year for a century.) The next Damnation Epoch is set to occur in a couple of years, but Bosabrieln suspects they will move much sooner than that. Bezaldooz asks if time moves differently here, and the Council of Six reply that while it sometimes does, the Coliseum Morpheuon is fairly synchronized with the Material Plane. A few years here will be a few years for them, as well. The Shields and the Council of Six ultimately agree that whatever the Shields decide to do, they will let the Council of Six know. The Council of Six, in turn, will aid them if they are able. (But as they note, there is little they can do: they are not a military power, and those oneirobound who still work for the Khan of Nightmares are bound to his commands and will not leave willingly unless they are awakened.)
Leaving the chambers of the Council of Six, the Shields of the Sorrowfell initially make plans to stay at a local inn, The Awakening Sleeper. However, after some consideration of operational security, they instead decide to find an inconspicuous alley and retire to Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion to plan. Considering their resources, they recall their affiliation with the Four Seasons and ultimately decide to contact Lord Maervik in the hopes that he will be able to put them in contact with someone relevant. Bosabrieln prepares a sending_, saying, "_Greetings, friend. We wish to speak with you regarding a dreamy endeavor. Where can we find you to speak in-person?"
Awakening the next morning, Moonday, Planting 24, the Shields of the Sorrowfell take their leave by plane shift to Vonseloth, making their way to The Silver Bell. It is a well-appointed inn, run by an old gnome named Berny. He serves them but quickly surmises their identities, especially once Bosabrieln starts playing. As it often does, his playing attracts a large crowd, enraptured by his music.
Around noon, they hear a commotion as Lord Maervik pushes his way through the crowd. Although slightly exasperated, he seems largely amused that the Shields seem to attract such a crowd everywhere they go. He asks if they can retire somewhere else to speak privately, and the Shields say that is possible. Bosabrieln announces he is taking a break, Berny gives them access to a room, and they move upstairs briefly to speak in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion.
As they proceed to discuss the purpose of their meeting, Lord Maervik explains that he knows someone who wishes to speak to them. An ally of the Court of Fallen Leaves known as Auberyon, the Solstice King, is a sponsor at the Coliseum Morpheuon, but he knows of the Shields’ proclivities — both in their opposition to slavery and their antipathy to the Khan of Nightmares — and wishes to speak with them about it in the hopes of securing their aid. Are they interested?
The Shields, of course, agree.
Lord Maervik presents them with a tuning fork attuned to Limbo in the Elemental Chaos for the purposes of plane shift and the sigil sequence to a teleportation circle at the Fortress of Doldrums. They are to meet the Solstice King at noon in three days’ time. (The Fortress of Doldrums was chosen as a neutral ground for all parties, something the githzerai monks agreed to do for their own reasons.) As the Shields ultimately agree to the terms, Lord Maervik takes his leave.
The Shields return to the common room of The Silver Bell so that Bosabrieln can resume playing for the crowd. Eventually, they retire for the night.
The next three days are largely uneventful as the Shields engage in personal business. (Notably, Bosabrieln arranges for Bezaldooz to transport him to Duchy Jepson to spend time with Vianibrar while Bezaldooz himself teleports to Argent so that he might monitor his clone’s progress and scribe spells from Lord Candle’s book into his own spellbook.) By midday on Earthday, Planting 27, the Shields have reconvened to make their way to the Elemental Chaos. Bezaldooz invokes plane shift and the Shields’ surroundings change yet again.
This transit is not nearly so pleasant as the trip to the Plane of Dreams, as they find themselves in the midst of a storm, a cacophony of elemental power. They are in an area of comparative calm, inside a teleportation circle in a gatehouse upon a bridge. They are apparently standing outside a fortress floating on a single earth mote in a bubble of calm in what is otherwise a raging maelstrom of flame, ice, mud, and wind. They greet the githzerai guards outside and are granted ingress to the fortress.
Inside, all is incredibly still as the githzerai monks are largely silent. They lead the Shields to a meeting room set aside for this purpose. Inside is a large table with six chairs, one of which is of enormous size. A single monk waits inside the room with a massive towel, and there is tea and biscuits provided for the guests.
After a brief wait, the doors open and three figures stride into the room. A massive elfin figure, well over ten feet tall, strides into the room, his lithe form adorned with tattoos a loincloth and little else. (Although they have never previously met, he is unmistakably the Solstice King.) He bears antlers and cloven hooves, and carries a longbow and halberd. He is accompanied by the largest hound anyone present has seen, over twenty feet tall at the shoulder, so large it has to crawl to squeeze through the door. In addition to its massive size, its storm-grey fur and lightning flecked eyes mark its eldritch parentage.
Unsurprisingly, everyone loves the hound, as both Peren and Torinn accost the beast to pet it. (The hound’s presence also reveals the purpose of the monk with the towel: the massive hound produces plenty of slobber, and the monks like to keep the place tidy.)
Following the Solstice King and his hound is none other than Tetposmeton, grinning widely at the Shields.
All take their seats.
Before they proceed, the Solstice King and Tetposmeton have one request: Tetposmeton gets to speak with Torinn alone first. This is something the Solstice King and Tetposmeton apparently discussed ahead of time, and is a stipulation for the rest of the conversation to take place. Given the ultimatum, they agree, and Tetposmeton and Torinn leave the room. Bezaldooz sends Goruthrel to spy on them, and although almost no one spots the familiar, the Solstice King clearly does. He points his finger and intones some manner of spell, destroying the spider before anyone notices what happened. After the room calms and Bezaldooz sheepishly apologizes, the others in the room wait for Tetposmeton and Torinn to return.
Retiring to an adjacent meeting room — Torinn notes with some amusement that a few githzerai monks follow Tetposmeton at all times and will not leave him unsupervised, even with Torinn there — Tetposmeton asks if Torinn trusts the others. Torinn inquires why the devil would ask, and Tetposmeton explains his meaning: is there any possibility that they could have been subverted by the Khan of Nightmares? Were any of them alone with the Khan at any point? After all, if the Khan of Nightmares suspects they are having this conversation, this whole enterprise is doomed to failure. (Tetposmeton further notes that Torinn’s distrust of him suggests he is unlikely to have allied with the Khan.) Torinn notes that Bosabrieln was briefly alone with the Khan more than once, but has not acted strangely since that meeting. He trusts the rest of the Shields.
This satisfies Tetposmeton, and the pair return to the original meeting room.
After Tetposmeton gives a subtle nod to the Solstice King upon his return, the unlikely conspirators present their proposition. The Solstice King believes the Voracious Visitor is an abomination and would see it destroyed. Tetposmeton’s superior officer, the pit fiend Akinshata, was captured aeons ago by the Khan of Nightmares and is held prisoner. Since they understand the Shields’ antipathy to the Khan of Nightmares, they determined that the Shields would be a good group to aid them. Both have no specific payment in mind, but the Shields would be well-positioned to claim boons from them afterward, as they would both owe the Shields a great debt.
Over the course of a few hours and several discussions, a plan forms. The conspirators explain that the Khan has bound the Voracious Visitor to himself through unknown means, and also has his majordomo (some flavor of magic-user) and the captain of his guards (a sapient golem of some sort) at his command. His guards comprise the Hounds of Ill-Prophecy, descended from a prisoner ship that wrecked on his island in antiquity and now comprising a legion of tiefling lycanthropes. If the Shields can neutralize the Voracious Visitor, the Solstice King and Tetposmeton can land troops on the island and keep the Hounds of Ill-Prophecy busy while the Shields push their way inside to confront the Khan himself. However, the Coliseum Morpheuon is built like a fortress and forms the seat of the Khan’s power, particularly at the arena floor. Gaining access will no doubt be difficult, and the Khan will no doubt make his stand in the arena. If the battle goes against him, he will likely flee into his private sanctum.
Tetposmeton also notes that whomever slays the Khan takes control of the Coliseum Morpheuon. When Peren expresses great interest, they both note that they do not wish the hassle of managing the arena, and will gladly let him have it.
But before preparing for that, they have to determine a way to destroy the Voracious Visitor. (Although Tetposmeton notes that whomever inherits the arena would gain control of the umbral blot, and they have developed a ritual to free Akinshata which would allow him to take control of the umbral blot, although it needs to be performed on the arena floor and would take roughly half a minute. Everyone else would rather see the blot destroyed.) The Solstice King understands that a weapon similar to a rod of cancellation would destroy the creature, although to his knowledge, no such weapon exists and would take years to develop. However, he suspects that a carefully-worded wish could create such a device.
Not knowing that Torinn’s new sword can grant such powers, the sword speaks and makes its presence known. (Tetposmeton interjects, recognizing the voice of Padishah Nurhan Solak and mocking the efreeti lord for his imprisonment. Bosabrieln connects the name to a noble efreeti who lived in the Underdark and disappeared seventy or so years ago, making a mental note that the title of “Padishah” is well beyond the creature’s station.) After the cross-chatter dies down, all parties agree to make use of one of the efreeti’s wishes to craft such a device. The Solstice King recommends it take the form of an arrow, but Peren, who suspects he will be delivering the blow, suggests a javelin. All agree and set to negotiating this carefully-worded wish. With a few hours’ work, the contract is complete and Torinn invokes the wish, creating a new javelin of cancellation.
In the interests of fairness, the Solstice King recommends leaving the weapon with the githzerai. (Tetposmeton says he will gladly keep it safe.) After a brief debate about the merits of this storage solution, all involved agree.
Before parting company, discussion leads to one last thing: Tetposmeton reveals that he knows the Khan of Nightmares to be a rakshasa. This irritates the Shields, who know rakshasa cannot be permanently slain, but Tetposmeton has reason to think that won’t be a problem…
With their meeting complete, those assembled agree to move in roughly three weeks’ time. The Solstice King and Tetposmeton will mobilize fleets off-shore, ready to move when the Voracious Visitor is slain.
With a tentative plan in place, the conspirators prepare to part company, with the Shields of the Sorrowfell returning to the Sorrowfell Plains. Once returned, they prepare to undertake their final preparations before the battle — and Bosabrieln plans on informing the Council of Six of the impending chaos — while Torinn takes the opportunity to inquire with Bezaldooz regarding what he knows about clones…