??? - Heart of Aveir'Fae'Thralaesr – Dawn Fae Realm
They stand in a great hall of soaring, sculpted crystal, which blazes with golden light. Pillars of radiance, filled with tumbling cut stones of impossible brightness and hue stand in a row along its middle, whilst at the far end two immense doors of darkest grey-green stone, carved with huge bas reliefs of deformed gigorim, rainbows of fire and spectral feathered birds grind shut, blocking their advance to the Menhir beyond.
Each adventurer is suddenly overwhelmed by a mental avalanche of memories, ideas, knowledge and experiences from their last two years of service to their deadly Fae Lord, and they know that the Chiming Menhir is a gateway, a portal; a possible route to their home world.
Ormid also realises something else. He remembers how time flows strangely in the fey realms, how it can shift forwards and backwards without reason, and how a day there can be several weeks, months or even years in the physical realm. He feels sick as he realises this, and as he regards the monsters thundering towards them.
Veteran runs a quick analyses of their foes. The most prominent is a 24' tall mass of bunched muscles and deformed rage, shimmering with bright golden radiance – a dawn fomorian. Around its massive booted feet scurry four pot-bellied, glowing dawn gorgryn; two wielding long rune carved spears, and two wielding sharply curved, razor edged scimitars of some glinting golden crystal. The final foe is most disturbing though; a slender humanoid figure as lithe as a sunbeam, dressed in beautiful plate armour seemingly woven from dawns radiance and frozen moonlight, each piece engraved with perfectly inscribed runes of fae protective magic. It's full helm is narrow, and through the slender V shaped visor glow narrow, silver, pupilless eyes. A quiet aura of potent authority emanates from this figure – a dawn fae noble.
The two forces meet in a brutal, whirling battle. The Fomorian is a lethal foe, who's great size allows it to strike from a distance and to sweep its blinding blade of solidified radiance through multiple targets at once, dazzling them with its flashing glow, whilst the Fae knight uses both magic and its slender blades to wreak havoc amongst the group, blinding them with bursts of brilliant light, and slicing burning wounds into them with flowing, precise strikes. The Gorgryn at first seem a minor inconvenience, but soon reveal themselves to be adept at striking at the worst moments, only to step through reality and teleport to safety a moment later, their twittering, bird-like calls strangely at odds with their appearance.
However, despite their magical and mundane might, the group slowly push them back, throwing their most powerful attacks at them, quickly managing to destroy them, each creature vanishing in a burst of warm, glowing motes of golden radiance.
With the path to the doors cleared, and sensing victory (and escape) close at hand, the party charge forwards, the artificer uttering a chant taught to him by the cruel, scourge wielding fae who primed them for this mission, and with a roar, the doors slowly, reluctantly, rumble open to reveal once more the Chiming Menhir – the doorway back home.
The Menhir stands atop a great hill covered in violet, luminous grass and circles of shimmering, fuming mushrooms. From their current position their view of it is blocked however; mostly hidden behind the grove of indigo leaved, white barked, oak like trees that circle the summit, shifting and blurring strangely as if being viewed through smearing mists, partly obscured by the impossible bulk of the three dawn fomorians that guard the way forwards.
Two of the immense brutes are like the one the party battled in the hallway before; hulking, impossibly massive things – deformed and twisted, but nightmarishly strong, unnaturally swift and imbued with magical power and unbending determination. They rumble forwards, their footfalls shaking the ground, their immense greatswords drizzling auric light as they come. The third fey gigorim stands at the edge of the tree line. It is just as twisted and massive as its sword wielding allies, but clutches a great rod of carved bone in one hand, a blazing sphere of radiant fire in the other. Brilliant spiral tattoos burn with magic across its face, and its eyes crackle with barely restrained power.
Perhaps due to their eagerness to get home, perhaps due to a sense of overconfidence, the party surge into the chamber to meet the monsters, their voices raised in a battle cry – and a near catastrophe unfolds. The Fomorian at the edge of the trees acts first, unleashing a blast of arcane fire at the group, forcing them to leap for cover, even as it pronounces a dread curse on the warforged – a curse that will blast him apart should he try to approach its speaker. The sword wielders close the space quickly with their clumping, massive strides, and begin to inflict significant harm on the party, each blow throwing their target 15' in addition to the grievous wounds they leave, and soon any pretence of a battle strategy crumbles as defensive formations are shattered and the heroes find themselves split up.
Things only get worse when shimmering arrows arc from the trees above, fired by the blazing bows of several more dawn fae gorgryn, the missiles repeatedly finding their mark, each exploding in a blinding burst of searing light, and though the gigorim begin to take hits from the sizzling axe of the Veteran and the swooshing mace of the Vyrleen, most of the party are blinded, dazzled or simply alone in the deadly battle.
Ormid strikes out at the warlock and conjures a mechanical servitor to aid him in battle, but is clipped by the burning edge of the fomorian sword and pushed into one of the faerie rings. As he slips into the circle of mushrooms, a dizzying rush of magic engulfs him, and suddenly he finds himself in another of the rings, about 50' away from the main battle.
The Warlock continues to blast the party with unbearably bright bolts of energy, and continues to maintain the hex he has placed on the warforged in order to ensure that he and his deadly axe (which is by this point whittling one of the warrior fomorians down to a shimmering, wailing wreck) stay far away. Its attention is diverted however when a blast of lightning from the Dundorin's sacred hammer hits it in the face, allowing Ferrous a chance to get in close enough to unleash its scalding, acidic oil – an attack that sees two if the gorgryn archers and the warlock slip over, their flesh seared by the corrosive lubricant.
Seeing his chance, the artificer runs as fast as his wobbling legs can carry him towards the summit of the hill and the Chiming Menhir. As he does, he hears a strangled scream, and looking down towards the battle at the bottom of the hill, he sees that one of the warriors is down, but that so too is Llewellyn, his tiny body leaking blood at the bottom of the hill.
Determined to activate the portal and then to charge back down the hill to heal the Vyrleen, Ormid enters the grove of shimmering fey trees – and at once feels their magic trying to penetrate his mind. An unnatural, crushing weariness sweeps over him; a supernatural sleep that tries to smother consciousness and bring him down pressing against the walls of his psyche like a physical weight. His footfalls slow, and his vision blurs, but he focuses on the circle of iridescent, crystals that stand in a circle at the very top of the hill, rainbow distortions playing in glimmering coruscations over its surfaces, and draws strength from the nearness of his goal...
...He pushes through – and is hit by several arrows, the gorgryn archers having noticed his arrival...
Ardwaine is blind, her vision filled only with the misty green after image of the flashing gigorim weapons light, and she knows she and others are in trouble. She has been blindly whacking the gigorim with her hammer, using its roars and the crunch of her allies weapons to guide her. Now that it is down, she knows that the Vyrleen needs her, but cannot see him to help...
...then she is hit by a gigorim weapon, agony exploding through her as it slices into her shoulder, and then again as she crashes into the ground fifteen feet away. She can hear the veteran bellowing, can hear the fierce melee at the top of the hill where the Iron Defender snaps and rips at the roaring warlock, and can dimly make out a strange hollow booming sound, edged with a tuning fork wail, the sound being accompanied by a prickling sensation along her skin.
She grins. The artificer has opened the portal.
Ormid blasts one gorgryn with fire, though it is little harmed, and manages to touch one of the Menhir's touchstones with an item from his home plane. At once the crystalline structure takes on the dimensional resonance of the item, and the whole menhir begins to thrum with it, the air in its middle writhing in response. Then, with a soundless “pop”, a portal shimmers into being, a gloomy pine forest visible through it, cold, snow damp air pouring through, filled with the earthy, real smells of the physical plane – different from the almost dreamlike, hallucinogenic sights and sounds of the Fae planes.
Ormid screams to his allies that the way home is open, and turns to go and help the Vyrleen...
Hearing the artificer's voice, and having no idea what is going on, the Dundorin runs up the hill towards it, only to be punched asleep by the crushing magics of the forest. Ormid is also overcome by the sleep enchantment, and drops to the floor a few steps into the tree line.
The Veteran, dented and scratched, but still going strong at this point, is badly battered by a furious barrage of blows from his roaring opponent. Parrying desperately, and calling upon his innate toughness to ignore the worst of his wounds, the living construct can only watch helplessly as the last of Llewellyn's life trickles out of him stains the ground.
Even as he hits the gigorim with a blow that ends its life, Llewellyn dies.
Hit by an arrow, the artificer stirs, shaking his head groggily. His mind is a cloudy void for a moment, but then he remembers. He gets to his feet, pushes through the physical and mental barrier of the dreaming grove, and emerges on their other side just in time to watch the second gigorim warrior die in a blaze of golden light, and the Vyrleen passes away.
By this point the Veteran has begun to grimly march up the hill towards the warlock, who's battle with the Iron Defender continues, unwilling to allow himself to focus on the disaster that has occurred. However, as he does, he feels something within him screaming to be heard, and he suddenly recalls a filthy place of gnawed bones and corrupted earth, a place where he and the others were granted the favour – once only – of a God, and with a song in his heart he calls out to Brodd'Üd, and beseeches him to bring the Vylreen back.
The air resonates with power as the deity briefly exerts his will, and the Vyrleen suddenly arcs his back as the worst of his wounds close and his soul is restored to his body.
“The last” rumbles a mighty voice in the psychic ether...”My debt is now paid in full”...
Relief floods the party as the rogue slowly clambers to his feet, and invigorated by his return they turn their wrath on the remaining monsters, and quickly drive them off or slay them. Then, with the portal starting to close, they systematically work their way through the dreaming grove, one at a time, using ropes to pull sleepers through, and eventually all make it through the portal...
21/5/1472 (Overcast at first, then brightening. Strong, cold wind. Drizzle by dusk)
06:15 - The reality of the physical world is dirty and gritty, full of hard smells, biting sensations and jarring coarseness after the dream (or nightmare) like fey planes, and for a moment the group can only sway dazedly as they process the sensory overload. Even the gravity and psychic taste of this world is a shock after their captivity, and all of them shiver both with the chill and with shock.