Royce’s eyes open to see staring down at him, Nong, who is barely alive. There is a look of exhaustion in Nong’s face – partly from fighting a god and partly from carrying the weight of the wand of Orcus all this way. Nong limps back to allow Royce space to move and get up. The cleric of Tempus looks around and sees the results of the battlefield: huge chunks of dead Kyuss litter the ground, spawn corpses everywhere and a horrendous stench of worms and undeath. He feels a throbbing pain creep up on him, as he looks down and sees a bloody finger stump.
“What the hell happened to my finger!”
“Talk to Naismith about that one. If you ask me, he did what he had to do to save our lives.”
There is also a slight sting coming from Royce’s inner arm; he grabs it searching for the culprit. He is shocked when he sees staring back at him, a branded copper scourge tattoo – the mark of Glasya.
“Damn him! I curse Naismith for doing this to me. Why didn’t you leave me to die in peace. I could be resting in Warrior’s Rest right now, instead of this crap.”
Nong gives Royce a look of disgust as he moves toward the bodies of Naismith and Mordrock, “Royce are you going restore our comrades or not?”
Royce glances nearby to see the stable bodies of Talina and Naismith and a dead Mordrock. He bandages his finger stump and prepares to restore the party with some mass healing. Naismith and Talina slowly open their eyes, inhale the stench and jerk upright. Naismith looks up and catches an angry stare from Royce.
“What happened? Where are the devils Nong?”
“They are gone. Those hellfire cannons got the last good hit in, tore Kyuss to shreds and then went home.”
Nong walks over to Naismith, extends a hand to him, “Thank you Naismith for the courage you took to engage them. We wouldn’t have survived without your leadership,” as he scowls in Royce’s direction.
Naismith is quick to comprehend what is taking place; he looks at Royce’s hand and says, “I’m very sorry Royce but I had to break your ring. I couldn’t afford the time to take it off you while I had spawn breathing down my neck. I simply reacted, and I hope you know how to restore your finger.”
Royce looks away for a moment and then focuses his attention on Mordrock’s body, “I can bring him back, just give me a moment.”
Talina approaches and touches Royce on the shoulder, “We are alive and free from that terrible thing. You fought well and brave.” She steps back and commends Naismith and Nong for the same thing. “I don’t know how we survived but you will have to tell me what happened after I fell.”
“Talina, I don’t think you want to know what happened. Just be thankful we took care of it, for you.”
Talina frowns at Nong and then replies, “I guess you are right that it’s not the most important thing to talk about right now,” as she looks over at Mordrock’s body. “But eventually, I want to know why do both clerics have one less finger?”
The few times Mordrock has briefly visited his deity was never in a chamber, like the one he is in now. This chamber, unlike the one where Kelemvor judges the dead, is small and only an ornate throne exists in it. Mordrock feels the divine power of Kelemvor emanating from the throne; the cleric instinctively kneels in respect. “Mighty Kelemvor, I have returned to you. Please oh great Kelemvor, bless me and judge me for my life trials.”
“Now is not the time for that Mordrock. You are not done with your life journey. You must return to fulfill your destiny.”
“Yes my lord. What is it that I must still do to serve in your name?”
Kelemvor lifts his hand and the necklace around Mordrock’s neck rises up and begins to glow. Mordrock looks down at it, confused by the meaning of this.
“Do you recall how this necklace came to be, Mordrock?”
“Yes. It came to me in a dream I believe, from one of your angels. But I am not clear on what it is or does, my lord.”
Kelemvor gives Mordrock a stern look, “I sacrificed many angels to fetch that from Thanatos after Orcus was defeated on the Material Plane, and before he could re-materialize.”
Kelemvor pauses and then laughs, “I guess this place is the best place to keep a secret from that wand, as Orcus hears all from his weapon. Mordrock your dream was actually you in the Astral plane, then in the Abyss, observing the rescue of Anarchocles’s spirit. His prison was contained in one of the many blood gems that decorate the throne of Orcus. His minions were quick to protect their master’s throne but were not fast enough. My angels succeeded in prying out the gem at the cost of their lives. The last angel chose you as the bearer before succumbing to the fiends of Thanatos.”
Mordrock stares at the glowing crystal, wide-eyed after hearing the story of its journey to him. He recalls the research the Drow’s Bane did to learn of the ways in which to destroy the wand. Obviously bathing it in the Positive Plane at the hand of the slain hero, is the true legend. “When you meet Orcus on the battlefield, swallow the gem to unleash Anarchocles’s spirit. Together, you and he, will become one and can defeat Orcus. Then, take his wand and go to the Positive Plane to destroy it.”
“Ouch!” cries Mordrock as he looks down and sees on his inner arm, a branding of a copper scourge appear. Confused as to how such a thing can happen to his spirit, Mordrock looks at the symbol and realizes what has happened to his body. “No!!! My soul has been sold to Glasya,” he cries out, covering his face and feeling ashamed in front of his god.
Unexpectedly, Mordrock does not hear the wrath of his god but something quite the opposite. In a gentle and comforting voice, like a parent to a child, Kelemvor reassures, “Do not be afraid of what has happened. Nothing is earned in the multiverse without cost and sacrifice, Mordrock. That is the journey all heroes eventually realize and have to accept and deal with. That is the balance of the multiverse. Today you fret about your contract with Glasya, but tomorrow you may realize it was because of this contract, that allowed you to accomplish your greater goal.”
Mordrock, feeling as if surrounded in a big Kelemvor hug, begins to feel safe again in his god’s presence. He lifts his head and thanks Kelemvor for the mighty wisdom. Together, god and cleric, sense the cosmic tug of life enter into the room, like a umbilical cord tugging Mordrock back to his body.
“Go now, my faithful servant. Complete your destiny and make me proud as your side stint in necromancy has not been overlooked!”
“Yes my lord, I will honor your call and…refrain from any future necromancy,” replies Mordrock, feeling ashamed of being called out for something he thought he was doing secretly.
Mordrock’s eyes open as he senses he is back in his body once again; except for a throbbing feeling in his hand he quickly remembers the stench of the room before his fall. He remembers the last image before he fell and reacts by shaking his body to release the burrowing grubs that are no longer alive.
“Welcome back, Mordrock. You are alive again.”
“Thank you Royce, for saving me once again.”
Mordrock looks down and sees a bloody finger stump and now feels its throbbing pain. He realizes his ring finger is missing.
“Where’s my finger?”
“We will grow you a new one once we are in a safe place and can rest.”
“I’m sorry Mordrock, I had to cut it off to get to your ring. I did not have the benefit of time on my side.”
“I understand Naismith. You did what you had to do.”
Nong sees behind him, an invisible imp appear; it waves to Nong as it flies toward the party. Nong begins to say something when the imp drops the invisibility.
“I guess now that we are family, you can call me ‘Bedichiah’. Come, you need to find the dawn essence to will it to reveal to you the Positive Plane.” Bedichiah flies toward the remains of Kyuss’s prison.
The party leaves Talina behind and follows the imp. When Talina catches up to them, she finally sees the imp. By now, she has learned this troupe of characters have very colored stories and it is best to just go with the flow. She approaches, sighs and points, “Let me guess, that thing’s with you right?”
The Drow’s Bane silently nod back to her.
Bedichiah motions for Royce, Mordrock, Naismith and Nong to reach into the essence at the same time. “This essence is from the dawn of time. What you are about to do, no human has done in all of their history.” Together they reach into the essence and focus their mind on it, willing it to reveal to them the path forward. The essence responds with a bright flow that turns dull; out of it emerges a contraption of multi-colored tiles in response. The party stares at the contraption, unsure of what to do next or if this is the answer they seek. Bedichiah flies to it, examines the structure and replies, “But of course, the gods placed a lock on the essence. You must figure out the pieces before the answer is revealed to you.”
Royce, Mordrock, Naismith and Nong inspect the puzzle and see three colors of runes – white, green and brown; the runes have symbols on each of them. There are also matching white, green and brown tiles.
“I think we need to place the runes on the same color tiles.”
“Yes, and match the symbols at each endpoint, I think.”
Curiously, only Naismith can move the white runes, Mordrock and Royce the green runes and only Nong can move the brown runes. Eventually they figure out the puzzle and when the last rune is placed, two symbols emerge from the essence.
Talina is first to recognize the first symbol looks like the runes that compose a teleportation circle, but to where she is uncertain. Bedichiah approaches the first symbol and removes it from the essence and eventually determines the runes inscribed on it are a teleportation circle that originates on the plane of Limbo.
“Limbo? Our next trip is to Limbo?”
Bedichiah approaches the second and inspects it. “This is not a teleportation circle, but the beginning of a key to possibly a gate to the Positive plane. This key requires significant psychic energy to transform it into its four dimensional self.”
“If that is true, then the teleportation circle has to be the source where you launch the gate from,” replies Talina.
The party stares back in amazement at Talina for her discovery.
“Who do we know who has psychic powers?”
“None of use have such powers. We must seek the wisdom of Tempus once we have traveled to Limbo.”
“Wait! We know someone from Limbo.”
The party stares at Naismith hungry for what he has to say next.
“The Githzerai are from Limbo. Remember these necklaces that Sithka gave to us? We can call to her if we ever needed her help!” Naismith reveals the simple necklace from around his neck. He holds it in his hand and begins to focus on it. The necklace appears to be infused with a way to communicate to the githzerai captain. Everyone else quietly watches the rogue begin to speak out loud; no one else besides him, can hear the female githzerai voice respond. When Naismith ends the message, he turns to the group excitedly and says, “Sithka agrees to help us! We must travel to Limbo to meet her.”
The party breaks into a conversation of planning and strategy at the same time, the female triton takes a few steps back from the group. Royce is the first to notice,
“Talina, everything okay? You must come with us to Limbo. We can’t do this without you.”
Talina smiles back at Royce, “Royce, my journey with you has always been to see you safely through my plane of existence. Where you go next is not my journey; my journey with you has come to an end. A happy and wonderful end.” She walks up to Royce, gives him a kiss and says, “I hope we will meet again when you are done with your task. I will certainly miss you.”
Royce embraces her, and passionately kisses her back, “I understand Talina. I will miss you too and I can’t wait until our paths cross again.”
Talina embraces the others in a warm goodbye, then waves to them, and makes her way down the stairs toward the laboratory’s exit.
Bedichiah cuts through the pregnant pause that lingers in the room after Talina’s departure.
“Do you understand why only some of you could move certain runes only?”
“Well, the two clerics could move tiles so maybe it has to do with being a cleric and not?”
“Or maybe it requires more than one person to unlock the puzzle?”
Royce, who is still looking at the stairway where Talina descended, drys a tear from his eye and says, “If it took the whole pantheon of gods to imprison Kyuss at the dawn of time, then that means good, neutral and evil gods came together. The runes represent the three alignments.”
“YES! Royce that is correct. Glasya did chose well,” smiles Bedichiah.
Mordrock puts two and two together in his head as he looks at Nong, who happens to look a bit awkward at the moment. He then hears the voice of Kelemvor enter his mind,
“Nothing is earned in the multiverse without cost and sacrifice, Mordrock.”