Naked in the hotel lobby.
What goes around, comes around.
But with such monotonous regularity ...
Scrylash and Sanguine grab some laundry to cover what modesty they have (substantial in Scry's case ... allegedly). Wandering out the destroyed doorway they find Rogen and Balantine standing in the middle of the road looking dazed, under dressed, sun burned and clutching an equally bemused dog. Taking shelter in the deserted hotel they ransack the previously up-market establishment till they manage to cloth themselves in abandoned garments and arm themselves with dangerous looking kitchen implements. Searching for food they start to realize that the place has been deserted for some months and all but the best preserved salted and pickled foodstuffs have either perished or been taken. Feeling less likely to be disturbed in a deserted hotel they decide to ransack the office and safe. This nets them some jewelry and precious metals for Sanguine's spells, a blunderbuss for Balantine's offensive capabilities and the hotel deeds for Scrylash's expanding property empire. Rogen hangs on to the bread knife.
After some questioning, Balantine and Rogen admit that they have no idea where they have been, why they are sunburned or the provenance of the dog - whom Balantine names Womble.
The two groups look at each other and ask "Wasn't Luana with you ?"
No Sister Luana !
Oh well - it isn't the first time someone's gone missing and it won't be the last.
Gathering up what provisions they can find they head for Scrylash's town house.
The city appears deserted with any weaponry and food long since looted. The
only signs that there once was life here is the occasional corpse.
Nearing their destination they spot Scrylash's butler.
Face down in the road.
With a sword through him.
Sanguine does briefly wonder why that sword has not been taken along with all the others in the city but, as usual, fails to voice this question out loud. The question is answered anyway by the explosion caused when Scrylash pulls out the sword. Picking themselves off the ground they notice the plume of red smoke rising from the hole in the ground that used to contain the explosives.
Our hero's quickly realize that, once again, the shit is approaching the fan and beat a hasty retreat.
Peering from window over looking the smoking pit they spot a huge dog like beast snuffling round their tracks and starting to follow them. Down the stairs, out the back window, across the garden, into the back of the next house, out into the street to spot a huge head looking over the building at them. Back inside and down to the cellar.
They hide as best they can in the clutter as they start to hear massive banging
and the cellar roof begins to crumble. The door bangs open and a something travels
through the room at great speed. A voice from the door shouts "Come out or we
will drop the house on you".
Given a choice between probable and certain death they choose the former and go out into the street where, waiting for them, they meet the dog's handler, the giant (who Scrylash and Sanguine met at Prestons exorcism) and the red haired woman who had stabbed Scrylash.
The dog handler tells them to surrender, much to the chagrin of Red who seems
determined to carve substantial chunks out of Scrylash. Sanguine throws down
his knife, trusting to his magic should a fight start. Balantine hefts his blunderbuss
and Scrylash prepare to take on Red as she and the dog handler argue about whether
we should be taken dead or alive.
A quiet voice says in Sanguines ear "I'll give you all the help I can".
"Gwen" thinks the Mage.
Red wins her argument by leaping over her compatriot and slicing Scrylash from crotch to sternum. Her face falls as she realize that her sword has passed through the scribe without harming him in anyway. She recovers herself, and leaps back as the thing that travels like the wind passes straight through our heros. Realizing that they cannot be touched they instantly attack. Battle is joined.
Scrylash goes head to head with Red, Rogen leaps to his aid. Sanguine covers the dog handler with a magical web as Balantine readies himself for a shot.
The giants hand crashes down on Sanguine, who runs right through it.
A nearby tree attacks the giant and Red discovers that her party trick of deflecting a bullet with her sword is not very effective against a blunderbuss.
As Scrylash and Rogen beat on Red, Balantine shoots the tied up dog handler and the giant gets swatted in the nuts by a tree.
The moving wind picks up the dog handler and he is suddenly 100 feet away
down the street, next to a tree which immediately attacks him. Roaring in outrage
and pain he uproots the tree and throws it at the mage, flattening him.
Quickly realizing the our hero's can be hurt by objects he tells the giant to drop a building on them and picking up a huge rock leaps to the attack.
Sanguine has recovered sufficiently to web the rock to their attacker as Rogen forces the rock to overbalance the dog handler.
With building rubble starting to fall round them our heroes retreat across the street. The Colbeck Rise assassins take the break in hostilities as a cue to flee.
The band, knowing that they were lucky, also turn tail and hurry across town.
Holing up across from The Hidalgo Trading Company, Scrylash's warehouse & whore house, where they rest & recuperate, and keep a close eye on any comings & goings across the road. The only movement being from a lackey who occasionally appears to feed the horses attached to the black carriage outside the whorehouse.
After a couple of days watching & recovering they decide head out and see
what supplies they can liberate from the rich side of town.
As they sneak through the streets they hear a coach approaching and hide in the nearest house.
The coach stops outside and there is a knock at the door.
They look at each other as the knocking continues.
With Scrylash and Balantine staying back, Sanguine and Rogen open the door.
Outside, the lackey who was tending to the horses indicates the open coach door saying "My master would like a word".
Sanguine and Rogen step in and as they catch a glimpse of Gill their world drops out from underneath them.
They all wake up in a dark cell.
After a quick look round, and the discovery of another prisoner (an archer
of their acquaintance), they try to ice up and shift out.
Their expanding awareness collides with the barrier round Swarkstone and collapses.
Well - at least they know where they are.
The cell door opens and a dozen Colbeck Rise soldiers enter.
The leader addresses them "So, you're awake. Come with us"
They are lead out of the room, up some stairs, into the body of the library, across the main square and into the church - and out of Swarkstone.
Crossing the church threshold, they are no longer in the city but somewhere
else. The presence of the shield is gone and the air is different.
The room they are in is more arena than living space. A balcony above the circular stone floor starts to fill with an odd assortment of beings from all the known, and a few of the unknown, worlds.
The Altus Conclave is brought to order and the chair asks for motions.
Death, Reprieve, Dissolution and Unmaking.
A female Drow argues for Reprieve and sways the Conclave. Gill argues for Death and equally sways the opinion of the gathering.
At a sign from the chair, a 6 foot arachnid scuttles from the back of the balcony, down the arena wall and approaches the band. Rearing on it's hind legs it bathes the group in some form of light that causes their chakras to visibly stand out.
The chair directs a question to the accused - "Have you ever knowingly and of your own volition caused your own movement between planes"
"Well that depends exactly what you mean by 'knowingly'"
A wall of silence appears between the guilty and the Conclave as they argue
amongst each other.
When the wall dissipates the chair demands a "Yes or No"
After a quick discussion our heros decide that honesty is better that nothing.
"Then death it is"
"A question" interjects Rogan.
"Some of you must have jumped planes deliberately, why aren't you dead ?"
The wall of silence quickly descends as a heated argument flares round the
As it clears a sillibant voice is heard "So can we agree on Unmaking or Reprieve"
The voting done, the decision - Unmaking.
"Altus Telac, as you lead the vote, can I assume you will supervise the operation"
With that, the Conclave retires leaving our merry band to face Unmaking, what ever that is - but at least it's not death.
Unmaking - the removal from here and now, and from all history, past and future. The Unmade will not exist and never have existed.
With Telac leading the group, and a dozen guards following, this 'better than
death' option is explained. Telac also explains that he, they and the guards
are actually in different cities and that in the city the guards are in, the
next door will be closed so they won't have much time but they should be ready.
Turning the corner, suddenly out of sight of the guards, the spider scuttles down from the shadows and, using his power over chakras, makes changes to their core beings, and is gone before the guards make their belated entrance.
"I'm sorry that the vote was Unmaking, but we would never have got Reprieve so this is the best we can do." is the cryptic explanation from Telac.
Leading them through a final door the band find themselves on a balcony, high above and overlooking one of the five cities. Adipsicore.
They are lead to a great bell and each held at one of four sides and as the bell is struck they cease to exist.
In the two years since the parties return from delivering the wedding documentation, the group have remained firm friends and close associates. The court moving to the borders of Lagoner and Falfax with the Eldrene / Kearnry union uniting the countries has helped turn Ashwell back into the small town it has always wanted to be with the greatest attraction being the famous ale that Rogen brews.
The only clouds on their otherwise idealic horizon are a) Gwen disappeared the same night as an odd box that they brought back from their travels b) Sister Luana disappeared some six months ago after a particularly lively festival and c) there are some words and phrases that seem to have a strange effect on them.
On an evening no different from many others and just after their return from a semi-regular tour of the provence, the band are sitting in the Ravens Feathers sampling Rogens latest creations when the postal deliveries left behind the bar for them are distributed.
A painting of, and by, Hayden Deagh, smiling and holding the crystal, with
a note saying that he had heard of the tradition of sending pictures for the
pub wall and as a token of his thanks for their earlier help...
Exactly who the hell does he think he is !
A remarkably untrustworthy and sneaky bastard, that's who.
Sanguine slopes off to find Sister Kail, a member of Luana's temple who has been seconded to the mage school to help broaden the range and skills taught there, to ask her advice on scrying and, to no one's surprise, she identifies painting as such a device. So what to do with the thing. Keep it, send it elsewhere or destroy it.
As they debate this, the rest of the post is distributed, Rogen is being sent
some odd grain, Scrylash has some information on Aston's movements, Balantine
gets reports from the field and Sanguine receives a begging letter from Alby
with the latest book report. As they laugh about poor Alby's almost terminally
dull assignment and desire to come home, Rogen reads from his letter, "Bryony
Time stops for Balantine and Scrylash.
As they are recovering, Rogen asks "Who is Bryony Wells?"
Never have the strange effects that accompany some words hit them that hard
This has to be investigated. Something is going on and they want to know what it is.
So - to Swarkstone to check this Bryony Wells book. But what of the painting. Given that Haydon could locate it wherever is it, it is decided that it not being is the best idea, so the first night on the road it accidentally falls into the fire.
In Swarkstone, and to the library. Alby is physically ravaged from his six
months checking books. In the children's section they find "Fey Tales for
Children" by Bryony Wells. Well, they find the dust jacket with that title
on a book of poetry. Looking at the check out record in the front, the last
check out is marked "P E / 257 / POWDER".
P E is Preston Elliot, there is no doubt about that but 257 is not a date and the librarian knows no one called powder who could have authorized a checkout.
Examining the book, there are some sygil marks on the cover and some half letters marked on the dust cover. On further examination Sanguine finds some marked letters starting on page 257 and hands the work to Scrylash. Codes are his field. Consulting with his butler, Scry discovers that there is a type of code called 'powder' and heads for the library to find out about it.
Meanwhile Sanguine checks the library records (there are some advantages to being Magus Prime of the mage school) and discovers that the records for Gwen and Luana are disappearing and will soon never have existed, and Preston Elliot joined the library the day after it opened, some 400 years ago and has never checked out a book.
Scrylash has found the code and only requires the key word.
"Try Preston" suggests Sanguine.
"Bryony" prompts Rogen
"No - Bryony has a double letter"
After many more suggestions and failed attempts, Sanguine prompts "Try Preston"
"GnT five the ave SB zero one eight nine Ballantine"
So off to 5 the Avenue, to find a bar, which used to be the offices of Goodhews
They head to the current offices and Balantine asks for his Safe Box, number 0189.
They are shown to a private room, where the box is eventually brought. The staff apologize for the delay but the box was deposited a few hundred years ago and it took a little time to find.
When opened it contains a number of things that beat some very strange thoughts into their heads and remind them of times and places they haven't been.
The box contains :-
A clay model labyrinth
A triangular pouch containing a type of pistol not invented yet
A sword belonging to Scrylash that he had never seen before
and a bag.
In the bag are :-
A pouch of bullets
A vial of incense
A pouch of stones
A magnifying glass
A paper pouch of spices
A pouch with a pendulum and a spell stone
And a sealed notebook.
A lot of the past, a past that they appear not to have lived through, is intruding into the memories of our party.
So, so you think you can tell,
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain,
Can you tell a green field,
From a cold steel rail,
A smile from a veil,
Do you think you can tell.
Did they get you to trade,
Your heros for ghosts,
Hot ashes for trees,
Hot air for a cool breeze,
Cold comfort for change,
Did you exchange,
A walk on part in the war,
For a lead role in a cage.
How I wish,
How I wish you were here,
We're just two lost souls,
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground,
What have we found,
The same old fears,
Wish you were here.