Following the destruction of Mishazael the party enjoy the protection and admiration of the Bond Eternal whilst they are waiting to meet TocToc. When the time is right, they meet with the Modron (who was very skittish following the group's enraging of the Chained Syndicate) in a storm warped universe of solid clouds and continent sized twisters, swapping the Chrono Lily parts for the Settari power source. The Modron is overjoyed to have gained the rare planar plant parts, and seems to immediately forget all his stresses at the party, telling them to seek him out again if they need anything.
After a days rest in the Bond Eternal headquarters, they use the public gates to return to Laertraine, where Calsiphus, overjoyed to see them, throws a huge feast in their honour. Following this the group spend a few more days sleeping and allowing their physical and mental wounds to heal before meeting with the arch-mage and working with him to open a Chrono Portal back to their time – though they choose a time two weeks before they left, allowing themselves enough time to get the mages they need to activate the portal (Calsiphus explains that it will take the combined efforts of five incredibly potent mages – a conjurer (to summon the extraplanar magics needed to awaken the device), an invoker (to channel the device's deadly power), a diviner (to aim the device), a transmuter (to change the conjured energy into something the invoker can shape) and an enchanter (to keep the devices enchantments strong and functioning) – to activate and effectively use the Settari Weapon. This of course fills the group with despair, for the factious schools of magic in their time tend to hate one another, and look down on their respective forms of magic, seeing them as weak in comparison to their own.
29/12/49 – LOREHAVEN – (Unnaturally cold weather; heavy blizzards, and periods of sub-zero temperatures)
16:00 – 16:15 - The group return to Lorehaven. Ormid's front door is locked, and the cold has frozen the lock shut, the rogue using his incredible skills to open it (this is why, when they came back in the past / current future, they found the lock picked open with great expertise). It has also warped in its frame, and Veteran has to smash it open (damaging the lock – allowing the snows to push it open before they return from Garras'Knar in their past / the current future).
The group get settled, and Ormid places the Settari Power Source on his living room table (a single coppery thread falls from this, to lie on the rug). They decide that they will spend a few more days resting before they somehow begin the impossible task of gathering five arch-mages together who hate each other.
16:16 – 22:00 – The group relax. Ormid conducts a search of his home to ensure all is well (his “special” publications are untouched). Eventually, all get some sleep.
30/12/49 (Sub-zero temperatures all day and night. Clear skies, strong, lethally cold winds from the north).
04:00 – Ormid awakens in a strange, echoing void of vague greenish-black angles and sullen, pulsing psychic power. He knows at once he is dreaming and does not feel frightened, even though he is aware of another presence nearby in the unnatural dark. After a short while, the presence speaks to him in a calming, warm, feminine voice. It tells him that it's name is Rammanum, and it is an arch-mage allied to the Cabal of Ubiquitous Sight – A world famous school of diviners.
Rammanum tells Ormid that she has seen what the Settari Weapon can do, and has seen into the futures where the alien ziggurat is not stopped, and the Gennamene allowed to establish a beachhead. She says that in order to prevent the rape of the universe, her school will gladly help him and his allies to gather the mages they need, as well as helping to aim the weapon's power when it is fired. Ormid for his part is a little suspicious, but thanks her regardless.
Before he wakes, the artificer is given four rune-circle sequences; each one linked to a teleport circle close to one of the strongholds of the schools of magic where the world's most powerful mages of the four required disciplines can be found. Rammanum gives Ormid a brief run down of the schools, their leaders and their structures. She then tells him that when they need her Cabal, they shall know, and shall meet them by the weapon.
06:30 – 08:00 – Ormid awakens from his strange dream, and somehow knows that it was truly a message from one of the Cabal. He tells the rest of the group about it, and they decide to head off straight away. There is a brief discussion about which school to go to first, and all agree that it would be best to get what will possibly be the most unpleasant encounter out of the way first – an encounter with the invokers of the Hell Dazzlers.
All of the group have heard stories of that ancient Upper Magorothian order of battle mages; infamous for their destructive spells, hulking size, use of heavy armour (complete with spiked gauntlets and leering, daemonic masks of iron), and preference for gaudy, colourful robes. They are rumoured to reside within an iron fortress within the desolate area of that distant and cold land known in the Second Age as the Great Northern Devastation – the Black Steel Edifice of Drazu'Morbeth – and are overseen by an ancient Lich known as the “Lich Invoker” - one Fernando Hernandez.
08:01 – 13:00 – The group prepare themselves for their meeting with the Hell Dazzlers. Ormid visits the university (where a few folks are more than a little surprised to see him – especially as he did not have his artifice arm when he left “a few days before”), and gathers some supplies, whilst Shadevia simply tries to acclimatise to the new world and its localised planar conditions.
13:01 – 13:21 – The party meet in Ormid's hidden lab, and watch as the artificer prepares the inscription needed to open a portal to the rune circle described in the formulae given to him by Rammanum. All work their jaws as the planar pressures swirl and press upon them, and Ormid sweats as he fights to control the potent magics he is focusing upon his own, carved rune circle.
With a crack, the portal yawns wide, and the group, ready for anything, step through.
15:22 – 15:24 (Local Time) DRAZU'MORBETH, FORMER NORTHERN DEVASTATION, UPPER MALGOROTH – They find themselves in a vast, dark chamber, who's smoky atmosphere presses upon them with a metaphysical weight. Somewhere, deafening alarms gong, and the group can see at least a dozen bulky robed figures, clad beneath their robes in heavy plate armour, their faces hidden behind devilish masks of bronze, iron or steel, turning with shock to regard them. As they spot the group, each become wreathed in sizzling fields of destructive power, their spiked gauntlets dripping fizzing, crackling magic.
Five of the mages move with purpose towards the party, the air around them bending with harnessed might, and Ormid throws his hands in the air, begging them, in Tradespeak, to wait.
For a moment it looks as if the party will have to fight all the Hell Dazzlers. However, one of the five approaching mages holds out his massive arms, and stays the castings of his allies. In a voice thick with the Upper Malgorothian accent, he asks the group who they are, and why they dare to penetrate the lower vaults of Drazu'Morbeth.
The group explain about the Gennamene portal and the Settari Weapon, and tell them that they must speak with the Lich Invoker. Laughter, mocking and cruel echoes through the furnace air of the chamber at this, and the Helldazzler tells them that they have come on a fools errand, and must be punished for their insolence. For a moment the group prepare to try and fend off the massed assault of the gathered mages.
However, the attack never comes.
Seeing that they are willing to fight him, the mage changes his mind, deciding that there must be something about the group that makes them so brave. After a moments deliberation with his allies in the native tongue, he turns to the party and makes them an offer in thickly accented tradespeak.
“Defeat me and my battle brother, and we shall see if the Lich Invoker is interested in seeing you.” He nods, and then adds. “Or in seeing you turned to smoke.”
15:25 – 15:30 – The group find themselves in a cube of energised arcane plasma – deadly if touched , its sullen, glowing boundaries constantly burning the air with its fiery energies. This 45' x 45' x 45' cube is the arena in which they battle two Heldazzlers; the spokesman and another who was chosen from a bevy of eager volunteers.
The spokesman wields two axes, conjured from lashing elemental energies and gripped tightly in hands wreathed in heavy, spiked gauntlets. He is cloaked in a screaming aura of fire and lightning, which blasts at anyone unlucky enough to land a blow on him, and demonstrates a deadly aptitude for his magical weapons, attacking with a speed and power unlike anything the party has seen before.
The other Helldazzler is more of a ranged aggressor. Like his ally he is wreathed in a protective aura of clashing elements, and also wields an axe (though one of metal and wood rather than raw, shaped magic). However his attacks come in the form of screaming bursts and withering blasts of coruscating energy; acidic light, fiery ice, lightning infused poisons. At one point, early in the battle, he manages to summon an invisible hand of force, which plucks the warforged off his feet, and hoists him into the air, its grip tightening and denting his armour plating, his haemolymph falling like oily rain onto the combatants below.
Against these two deadly mages, the party finds itself on the back foot. For every attack they make, their foes seem to have a counter, and for every blow they manage to land, the Helldazzlers return the hurt tenfold. Llewellyn and the Veteran (who manages to shatter the hand with his brute strength, falling a substantial, bruising distance from its broken grip), move into flanking positions around the first Helldazzler, only to be swatted away by his axes, each blow enhanced with arcane force which sends the two adventurer's hurtling away. Shadevia launches arrows laden with elemental power, only to see their harm absorbed by the potent fields of magic woven around her targets, and finds that the second Helldazzler has got her in his sights; barrages of hissing power flickering across the blazing cage towards her. Ormid works to enhance the weapons of his allies, and concentrates on the warforged's massive axe, enhancing its bite, covering it in radiant power (so that every blow restores a little of his strength), and amplifying the protective abilities of the parties' armours. However, he is forced to scurry away from the conflagration of battle when he finds himself the focus for the axe-bearer, his protective spells shattering, his body smashed under deadly, blasting blows.
For a while the inside of the cube is a dazzling, deafening, flashing maelstrom of catastrophic energies, battle cries and screams. From outside, the gathered Helldazzlers can only make out vague, distorted shadows through the glow of the cage, and the thickening smog of confined battle. Then, suddenly, a deep voice howls out in pain, and to the shock of those gathered outside, it is the voice of one of their own, for despite taking a substantial beating, the party have managed, with their discipline and practised coordination, to force the Helldazzler's back. The voice belongs to the ranged Helldazzler, who has suddenly found his potent armour no match for the sheer inhuman strength and determination of the Veteran and the deadly, seeking arrows of the shadeling. With shock, the spectators step back as he appears in a burst of teleportive magic amongst them, bleeding heavily, an arrow embedded in his skull, his chest laid open to the viscera. Despite his grotesque injuries, he is still very much alive – and laughing, more impressed than he can state at the parties prowess.
And so there is only the axe bearer. Unlike his ally, he is barely scratched, and his will to fight the entire party is clear to all. As he manoeuvres to get a better angle on the party, he compliments them, “I have to say outlanders, I am impressed. But don't be getting too slick with joy, for I am still here, and soon, you shan't be”
He attacks with impossible fury, his axes somehow seeming to be everywhere at once; defeating incoming attacks, and sending agonising waves of elemental energy into those too close to him. Another flanking attempt is made, and once again, both the Veteran and Llewellyn find themselves hurtling back towards the sizzling wall of the cage. The Helldazzler, however, is being worn down, his robes becoming increasingly tattered, the dense black plate armour beneath showing not only dints, but now, splits and cracks. Shadevia blasts him with seeking arrows crawling with shadowy vermin, Ferrous tears away at his armour with adamantium teeth, and the melee warriors deal a sustained beating; the warforged powering his axe into the resilient mage, the rogue sneaking around him, slamming his black mace into any vulnerable spots he sees.
Suddenly, the Veteran receives a blow that almost decapitates him, augmented by a wave of fire and lightning. At the same time however, knowing he is within the mages reach and defences, he throws every last mote of his strength into an upward swing, his spitting axe slicing through the Helldazzler's armour as if it were paper, ripping his stomach open and slicing a spurting divot into his chin.
There is a burst of magic, and the sound of collapsing air as the Helldazzler teleports outside of the cage, his face showing a wild mix of anger, joy and what looks like barely controlled tears.
The cage collapses, and around the vast space beyond, a million torches flare to life with jagged flames, showing it to be a huge hall wrought from a million sharpened blades – some small some huge.
“Well....well done outlanders. You....you have....done the impossible....we shall see if Fernando will see y-you.”
15:55 – 16:10 – The group are shown through a maze of bladed corridors to a great portal of shattered weapons and ancient magic by the axe wielding Helldazzler (who has now told them his name is Grezzny). Grezzny has been healed by one of his order, his horrific wounds closed without even a scar to show for it, as have the parties. He still seems unsure as to whether he should be overjoyed at being beaten or furious.
Either side of the portal stand two more Helldazzlers, though the designs of their robes speak of impossible age, and a dusty aura of ancient power emanates from them. With a start Ormid realises that each is a Lich – and some sense of this Fernando's power begins to sink in. Grezzny states he will not be accompanying them any further, and gestures towards the 30' high, 50' wide doorway. The group move towards it, and as they near its bladed surface, the two silent guardians speak a hissing word of arcane power, and the vast structure swings silently inwards revealing a pillared hall of incredible size beyond; a single, red and gold carpet running from the door to some unseen point far away.
As with all the other rooms in Drazu'Morbeth, the vast chamber is made from blades of black steel, and lit by jagged flamed torches of alien construction. At first the group see no one in there – at least no fiery undead, wreathed in the apocalyptic power of one who could master mages like those they have just battled. However, after a few moments a slight figure, dressed in heavy robes of crimson, gold and silver, appears some distance away on the carpet, and begins to walk towards them.
The group move on in, and soon can see the figures features.
Fernando Hernandez is a slight man (though Ormid senses a shroud of powerful illusory magic around him, almost certainly hiding his true form), with tanned skin and long, sharp features. His hair is black and spiked, and he has strangely hued, mismatched eyes – the left being black with a silver pupil, the right luminous red with a black pupil. He is smiling, revealing sharp, wolfish teeth.
“My friends, welcome!” He suddenly booms, his voice rich and strangely accented – and not with the dour, rough Upper Malgorothian accent.
“I had forseen that we would meet, and would like to start by saying that yes, I shall lend you all the help you need to fire this ancient engine of destruction, if only to see what it can do!”
The group are stunned by his knowledge, and can only listen as the Lich Invoker continues to talk to them in a friendly, welcoming manner.
it turns out that Fernando, like Rammanum, had been doing some divinations into the nature of the “Northern Anomaly” as he calls it, and had also decided that it must be closed. His divinations had also told him that “heroes on the cusp of immortality” would seek him out, and against all odds, gain an audience with him, and as such, is only too happy to not only help them unleash the power of the Settari weapon, but to send one of his number with them as they try to persuade the remaining three schools of magic of the importance of joining.
Enter Vladislav Kirogzvy – A hulking bear of a man clad in heavy black plate armour, with a taste for repulsively gaudy robes of lime green, vivid yellows and shocking snot tinged silvers. Pug nosed and heavily muscled, he looks more like a pit fighter than a mage, and his dislike for the “pansy” orders the group must meet with next makes them wonder how sensible taking him along will be.
“Dah. We should eat and drink to our endeavours” is his way of introducing himself.
Fernando also enchants one item of each adventurer's choice with a potent magic, his spell leaving the order's symbol – the “Final Sun”; a sunburst around a screaming skull – stamped on them. The Veteran has his axe enhanced to deliver a blasting shock of thunder on a blow, whilst the rogue chooses to gain resistance to the same kind of attack. Ferrous' teeth are ensorcelled so they deliver additional cold damage on a bite, whilst Ormid gains a resistance to acid (his ring changing shape to accommodate the Final Sun).
Shadevia is given a unique blessing – her tattoo twisting to mirror the Final Sun – the power, once each day, to absorb the energy of an incoming attack and use it to heal herself, and to fashion a protective shield around herself.
16:30 – 03:30 (31/12/49) – The group join Vladislav and many other Helldazzlers in drinking Vossk, and sharing tall tales. They find the hard edged men of the order to be strangely warm and terrifying at the same time. Llewellyn, Shadevia, Ormid and the Veteran get into a drinking game with their new ally – which the warforged unsurprisingly wins. Llewellyn does very well until near the end, when he passes out...
07:30 – 11:00 – The group awaken in cold, austere rooms which give a sweeping view of the fog and snow shrouded lands of the former Northern Devastation (they have learned that much of the magical taint that made the place uninhabitable in the 2nd Age has faded, though it remains a hard and testing realm for anyone trying to eke a living from its ashy, enervated soils). Llewellyn finds he has vomited on himself during the night. All (except Veteran) have terrible, terrible hangovers.
All swear off Vossk for the rest of their lives.
Breakfast is eaten, and the group decide to try and approach the mages of the Binding Circle next; a much feared and respected order of conjurer's who dwell within a tower of glowing red stone that rises amongst the peaks of the western most coastal reaches of Fey's Clouded Hills.
11:35 – 11:45 – The group use the same rune circle they arrived in as the focus for another Linked Portal ritual, and soon a glowing gate to the location given by Rammanum hovers before them.
09:46 – 10:00 (Local Time) WESTERN CLOUDED HILLS, FEY ISLES – The group arrive in a clearly ancient ruin of Ghaerduun design, overgrown with Thorn Creeper and Scurry Grass. The air is bitterly cold, and outside, the air glows with snows reflected light. They leave the ruin, and find themselves surrounded by naked deciduous trees, and soaring, snow and mist wreathed peaks.
Ormid conjures spectral mounts, and with Vladislav in tow, they head along the forested valley, and towards where they hope to find the red tower of the Binding Circle.
10:01 - 10:40 – The group make excellent progress, Ormid's conjured mounts moving like ghosts through the thickest of growths and the ubiquitous snows of the region. After the first twenty minutes or so, they find themselves on a high ridge, and can see a single, blood-coloured tower, shimmering strangely in the distance. It is surrounded by dense forests that are green despite the season and the unnatural weather, and all feel a slight sense of foreboding within them as they spot it – apart from Vladislav, who just snorts, saying “Even their home is pansy little and skinny like new born girl.”
Ormid calculates that they should reach the tower by late afternoon at the very latest.
He is wrong.
11:15 – The group are moving with speed through the forest when suddenly they pass through an unseen barrier of some sort – a barrier between the physical plane and another place; a place of glassy black stone and jagged ravines that spew screaming, sulphur blue flames into horrific black skies where alien constellations and lurid moons hang.
The transition is so strong, so jarring and so unexpected that Ormid, Llewellyn and Vladislav receive shocks to their systems; the artificer becoming distracted as his mind retreats from the horror, the rogue even more reckless than usual, and the Helldazzler – frightened!
The moment they enter this hellscape their mounts dissolve into smoke, and all the party are thrown to the sharp, cold ground, their minds reeling under the psychic pressure of this place, their ears aching from the horrible, gasping screams that emanate from the towering columns of icy fire spurting from the crevasses. In the distance, ghostly and pale, the red tower mocks them – and the group realise that if they are going to meet with the mages there, they are going to somehow have to find a way through this vile place, and back into their own universe.