Dark Holes in the World

Session 75: Something Wicked This Way Comes
In Which the Party Engages in a Dance Off

When we last left our heroes, they had settled in somewhat better at the Mended Heart after their meeting with the Prince of Hearts to discuss Sigil’s fate and how best to defeat Tiandra. Although Bright and Lo-Kag began drinking soon after that meeting, Chaedi kept her drinking to a minimum as Riii attended a subsequent meeting with the Prince of Hearts during which he and Moreth exchanged notes about possible allies and Riii discovered not only how Moreth interacted with her while she was in command of her body, but also how lonely he must have been all this time. Once back inside, she and Chaedi headed to the hot spring to reconnect, only to have a heated discussion about their relationship…

Riii and Chaedi both exit the spring, shrugging on the robes provided as they argue. Riii’s turns and leaves first, teleporting to the top floor as soon as she has line of sight on it, and then retreating into her room. Chaedi follows closely behind, pausing to plaster on a smile and wave at the people at the bar after Bright points her out, and then following Riii upstairs. She’s ready to burst through the door, but forces herself to count to ten and take calming breaths before she makes a rash decision. She can hear Riii crying softly through the door, and decides to leave her there while she goes to her own room.

In Riii’s room, Moreth attempts to console Riii psychically.

“It’s hard, isn’t it? To care so much. This is the responsibility of royalty. The crown is a heavy weight to bear. The choices that you make are so much more important than the choices of anyone else. As a ruler, it’s your responsibility to bear those choices. It’s not easy, but I know you can do it.”

With Chaedi in her thoughts, Riii responds “I’m not her queen.”

“But she is your responsibility. You have a grand purpose. Much rides on you. It’s not so different from the burdens of royalty.”

“So this is my glorious purpose.”

“Stay with me. Take your time. When you leave this room, I know you’ll be able to hold your head high.”

In Chaedi’s room, the cleric sits in the sand on her floor and vents her frustrations to Melora in an exasperated prayer to Melora. She forces herself to focus on the calming, natural scene outside the window while she does, and sees an autumnal tempest of falling leaves swirling around on the forest floor. She feels almost as though she can see further through the woods than she should be able to, as though the trees and canopies are parting to make room just to hold her thoughts. Slowly, as the prayer goes on, she calms and focuses on the sand in front of her. A luminous moss has begun to spread outward from her, creeping along the floor of her room and out of the window, clinging to the side of the Mended Heart. Small plants have begun to sprout through the floorboards.

Eventually, she begins to calm down, and as she meditates she feels a growing connection to something stable, a sense of being rooted. She closes her eyes towards the end of her communion, and when she opens them she sees the room around her filled with trees and other vegetation. Webs of spidersilk hang from the ceiling and tree branches.

At the bar…
Back at the bar, Lo-Kag joins the other bar patrons on the dance floor, and enjoys himself for a while. Usually, he has to be concerned about the combination of his weight and traditional goliath dancing breaking the floorboards, but he senses that the Mended Heart can stand up to such a beating. Although he doesn’t fully remember the dance he chooses, he manages some interesting, convincing improvisation to fill the gaps in his memory. Bright, also invited to dance by Kodun Dek, sits on the sidelines for now, but several other patrons try to copy Lo-Kag, with varying levels of success. It certainly becomes clear, however, that they are all adept dancers.

Shortly after, a more stately dance starts up and the eladrin woman gets Lo-Kag’s attention and dances with him like he was trained to do for the Court of Stars. It’s not long after that Lo-Kag notices Riddle return to the inn in high spirits. Politely exiting the dance floor, he gets Riddle’s attention, and asks him if the Gloaming Fey agreed to send help to Sigil. Riddle beckons Bright and Lo-Kag over to the bar to speak about the matter over drinks.

Back upstairs, Moreth reassures Riii that she can handle the pressures. He promises her that, while things can and will be difficult and frustrating, she has many other positive experiences ahead of her that will help softens the blows and lighten her hearts. Riii finally relents and decides to head back downstairs. She changes into a beautiful – but party-appropriate – maroon dress that she will be able to comfortably move in, and heads down. She might not feel entirely up to partying, but she does remember that she told Lo-Kag they would drink together, and she wants to get Chaedi off her mind.

At the bar…
Downstairs, she finds Bright and Lo-Kag just as they share a toast with Riddle. She slides into the seat nearest Bright and teasingly admonishes him for starting to drink without her. He is – as always – gently baffled by her teasing.

“Oh, you came back down!” He looks over her outfit. “You look fancy.”

“We’ll work on your complimenting skills soon.”

Bright asks if that wasn’t a good compliment, and she tells him that it was but it could have been better. He suggests he’s not as good at words as her or Chaedi, and Riii’s smile slips momentarily. She tells him that sometimes that’s a good thing.

Despite her sadness, Riii can’t feel wholly melancholy as she watches Bright. He’s smiling, happy to see her, and obviously drunk. She can see him processing his thoughts as they pass through his mind. He starts to pass Riii his drink, then remembers that he’s in a bar and can get her her own drink. He turns to the bartender to order one, but finds he is already pouring one for her. Once Riii’s drink is in front of her, he awkwardly proposes a toast and they drink to it. His obvious uncertainty earns him a supportive thumbs up from Lo-Kag.

As Bright and Riii toast, Riddle makes his way to Riii and holds out a hand to shake hers. She makes a point of holding hers out palm down, and he takes the hint and takes her hand, bowing to kiss the back of it. He asks her how she’s been, and she dodges the question, not wanting to talk about her night so far.

Before the discussion can get further underway, Chaedi also appears, looking nowhere near as fancy as Riii, but back in her Tinderwood-style outfit of soft, off-white cotton shirt and pants. As she approaches the bar, Riii indicates the seat nearest to her, and Chaedi takes it with a smile. Riddle bounds over to her, clasping her hands in greeting. Lo-Kag refocuses the conversation, asking Riddle to share any good news he may have about Sigil.

“Yes, please, sit, I promised to fill you all in. I will say I bring good news. But before that, I hope you will indulge me.”

Riddle jumps up on a barstool with a glint in his eye, and theatrically recites a riddle:

“Light or heavy as seed or tree,
Shallow or deep as beaches or sea,
Hither I come, and thither I flee;
If I don’t come back, then dead you’ll be.”

Riii instantly devises the answer to the riddle, “breath”, and is applauded by Riddle and the rest.

“Now, let me ask you something else. On my journey, which promised to take a week if not longer, what did I find? Or, rather, not what, but who?”

“The Witch of Fates?”

“Indeed, the Witch of Fates, and the rest of the Gloaming Fey. They will arrive here before dawn!”

Chaedi is pleased with this, but asks if all of the Gloaming Fey are coming, and if they’re all well. Riddle assures her that the answer to both is yes. Riii presses Riddle for more information about how he ran into them, and Riddle tells her he was on his way to visit the Maiden of Moon, whose lands lie furthest from here. On the way there, he found them all coming towards the Mended Heart. When he introduced himself, they told him to make his way back to the Mended Heart and herald their arrival.

Riii, remembering that the last time the Witch of Fates marched it was to war, looks visibly worried, but Riddle reassures her that she didn’t seem to be bringing that kind of message. Lo-Kag inquires if this all mean Riddle didn’t have a chance to discuss the matter of Sigil with them. Riddle responds that this is correct, and that he thought the party would be better able to provide details on the matter anyway.

To Riii, as well as to Riddle, Lo-Kag says he isn’t afraid of the Witch of Fates, and actually enjoys her straightforward approach. Riii responds that she isn’t afraid of her so much as what news she might bring. Lo-Kag points out that she is a knowledgeable woman who might have important information for them, causing Riddle to quip that the Witch of Fates “knows much and says little”.

Having heard all Riddle has to say, and ready to party, Riii downs the rest of her drink and offers to order more for the group. While the others agree quickly, Chaedi takes a moment and asks Lolth if she might know the name of the drow funeral drink the party had in Kerradunath. Lolth tells her it is call The Little Village, because the clusters of mushrooms used to make it look like little villages. Chaedi passes the name of the drink on to Riii, who asks the bartender for a glass of it. The bartender, unfamiliar with the name, asks for a description, and eventually finds an eight-sided decanter of the stuff under the bar and pours the drink, passing it to her and watching with interest.

The rest of the party can smell the drink, and all of them remember when they last had it. Lo-Kag asks for a glass as well, surprising Chaedi, who quickly checks with Lolth about whether it would be alright if the rest of the party had some. The response, slightly slow in coming, is that she is allowed to share some aspects of drow culture with outsiders.

Lo-Kag, noticing Chaedi’s expression, turns to face her and explain himself.

“I came here to celebrate too soon, and you came here to grieve, and seeing you with that drink reminds me that the drow taught us to do both.”

Chaedi nods, grateful, and downs her ale so that all that is remaining in front of her is The Little Village.

After everyone has settled into the party atmosphere, Chaedi – perhaps somewhat abruptly, turns to the small circle of people at the bar, and tells them she has a story for them.

“It starts with a murder, but it ends… with love.”

The dramatic promise is enough to get everyone nearby listening, as Chaedi tells the story of the murder mystery in Sigil, the damage done to Sigil’s city guard, and how the party came to know Ant and Merolil. As she talks about helping the two lovers escape from their home to Iliacta’s Boudoir, she puts her arms around Riddle and Riii, bringing them together, then clasps their hands, showing the audience she intends for them to take the roles of the two men. Then, she prompts Bright to stand. She’s hoping he’ll take on his role as well as he did the night of the trek across the city, but he doesn’t immediately understand what she’s getting at. Thankfully, Riii’s theatrics – clutching at Riddle and describing her fear – give Chaedi enough time to whisper the plan to Bright, who then carefully instructs the two on how they should move, sneaks them around the bar, and then out through the door.

Riddle brings Bright and Riii back in to applause, and Chaedi has only a moment to continue the story before Riii jumps in, and encourages everyone in the audience – which has now grown – to guess what she did for the lovers. After several wrong guesses that Riii jokes about to some laughter, Riddle guesses correctly that she paid for their entertainment, which earns another round of applause. Chaedi, having woven in several other encounters from their time in the city, shifts the scene to the tense night spent chasing Sgt. Farthing to Albrecht’s Tower. Here, Lo-Kag takes a turn weaving the tale, describing their encounter at the tower, the chase through the building, and Farthing’s death in the basement.

Hoping she has done enough to secure some interest in how the broader tale ends, Chaedi pretends to be ready to leave it at the next morning, and the three people heard snoring from Ant and Merolil’s room. Several audience members, however, demand answers to other question, most notably the fate of the city and how it affected the lovers. Chaedi continues with the tale, weaving in more people from their journey until she reaches the climax of the story and the party’s escape from Sigil to the Feywild. Overcome with emotion, and not doing a great job of ending on a high note, she cedes the floor to Lo-Kag, who steps in and emphasizes that when they left the city was still fighting. Riii jumps in too, toasting the Prince of Hearts for sheltering them after their journey and working to help the city. She then tries to move the crowd – some of whom are in tears – back towards lighter things, and here is aided by Riddle, who reminds the crowd that as much as they must feel the horror and sadness of the tale, they must also seek joy and, above all else, love. At this, the band picks up another dance tune, and the atmosphere changes to something more cheerful. As everyone turns back to the dance floor, Chaedi pulls Riii and Bright into a big hug. She’s a bit drunk herself now, and very thankful for their cooperation. She turns to look for Lo-Kag to thank him as well, but…

EAT SLEEP RAVE REPEAT
The depressing part of the night over – for him at least – Lo-Kag is back out on the dance floor. Kae-Gu gives a series of quick shouts to keep time before beginning an energetic drum solo. Lo-Kag starts dancing frenetically and tries to get the rest of the crowd to join in on Der Goliath Funkybeatz. Gyisheed is dragged onto the dance floor by the eladrin woman from earlier, and soon they are copying his moves. Moments later, Bright and Chaedi join them. Chaedi tries to get Riii to come along, but she sticks to the sidelines, smiling and watching.

Lo-Kag claps to the beat, emphasizing it over Kae-Gu’s more complex drumming so the others can follow more easily. As people catch on to the moves, however, he stops and focuses on his own dancing. The beat picks up, the dancing becoming faster, and the focus everyone devotes to their dancing reveals the unspoken agreement: this is a competition now.

The eladrin, perhaps overly tired after all her earlier enthusiasm, falters first and sinks to the floor, laughing. Chaedi isn’t far behind her, and heads back over the Riii, leaning on her, breathless with laughter of her own. Bright comes next, tripping on his own foot – an odd sight for those used to his sure footing. He joins Chaedi and Riii, and together they watch Lo-Kag and Gyisheed, both sweaty and breathing hard, as they finish off the competition. They both hold out for a while longer, leaving the rest of the competitors in the dust, but Lo-Kag eventually missteps, catching himself before he crashes to the floor but unable to continue. Gyisheed finishes gracefully and the two exchange compliments in the middle of the cheering onlookers.

The dance finished, the eladrin woman – Weslenna – tugs Bright towards the bar, eager for discussion with him. Chaedi, meanwhile, finds herself in discussion with another elf, Helethana. She asks after the dog that was sleeping in the bar earlier, before talking about her background and her travels. When she mentions Kerradunath, Helethana stops her and asks where Kerradunath is, forcing Chaedi to suddenly remember Lolth’s preoccupation with drow secrecy. Beset by uncertainty and drink, Chaedi reveals perhaps more about the city than she believes prudent. As Helethana pushes for further information, however, even the fog of drink can’t suppress Chaedi’s suspicion, and Helethana picks up on this. She reveals that she is a “lawyer” – a term Chaedi is vaguely familiar with and associates with rules and large populations. With this information in mind, the two discuss Kerradunath further, and Chaedi reveals some of the drow’s history and present circumstances with Lolth’s blessing.

Lo-Kag has found his way through the crowd to Kae-Gu, who is still drumming a bit to the music. Maykiss, also there, and watching her as she goes, speaks with him briefly until Kae-Gu is available. Lo-Kag tells her they will be leaving the next day, but he hopes that they get safely back to Ratheradir whenever they find it in themselves to leave. He compliments Kae-Gu’s drumming, and she comments that he is making his ancestors proud with his own work. Lo-Kag’s lack of response tells her a lot, and though the sincerity of the comment hangs in the air, they move on to other discussion before Lo-Kag excuses himself to sit with Bright. Before he leaves, though, he tells her that if she finds an elven woman from the Feywild she should tell her they’re still working on making their homes safe to return to.

Riii, for all her bluster about partying, isn’t feeling up to much more of it. She heads to Bright and Lo-Kag, announcing her intention to get to bed. They ask her about what she thinks they should do for the Prince of Frost. She can’t help but laugh a bit as they try to think up large beasts to fight. Bright is especially keen, asking her what kinds of dragons there are, and wondering if a large Feywild bear would be considered an impressive kill. She answers their questions with half-hearted teasing, and then makes for the stairs, where she’s stopped by the Prince of Hearts, disguised as an elf and standing at the bottom of the stairs. He escorts her upstairs, expressing his gratitude, and offering his help to Riii in the future. As they enter her room, Riii asks if he knows any way that she and Moreth can be separated, to be able to exist as separate entities. He responds:

“As you know, your situation is rather unique. There have been cases where archfey have been wounded, sometimes grievously, and recovered over time. This is a much more serious, and a much more interesting precedent. You have shown incredible growth in your abilities over the past few months, but it still could take decades. There is, however, the matter of eminent domain. As you know, an archfey’s domain responds to that archfey’s whims. There is a certain reciprocal benefit to that. An archfey is strongest in their own domain, they derive power from their lands. And so, there is a chance, that once you and your lover regain your rightful place as the royal King and Queen of the Summer Court, the power provided by that domain, the domain of your lands as well as the good king’s element, that may be enough in itself to accelerate the process.”

He leaves her with that to think about, and discuss with Moreth, as he heads out the door to destinations unknown…

Will Kae-Gu and Maykiss ever escape the Mended Heart? What does Ratheradir look like now, after the deaths of two gods? What could have driven the rest of the Gloaming Fey towards the Mended Heart? Will the party be in any state to hear about it when they arrive? And what about later, after they defeat Tiandra? Will Moreth and Riii be able to separate, or will they remain as they are for some time? If the latter, which path will they choose: rule the Summer Court, or stay with the party until they can defeat Vecna, creator of…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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Session 74: R&R at the Mended Heart
In Which the Party Wants to Get Drunk

When we last left our heroes, they – minus Chaedi – were just waking up after their first night at the Mended Heart, finding all of their rooms to have be transformed in minor ways to suit their desires. Chaedi had spent the night on a quickly-made mourning stone nearby, but returned partway through the morning. The party had a satisfying breakfast – another thing to magically change according to their wants – and Lo-Kag ran into an old friend, Kae-Gu, and her partner Maykiss. During the meal, the party discussed how to approach defeating Tiandra, and brainstormed what help they might need from the Prince of Hearts. They then met with the Prince of Hearts and hatched something of a plan: to go to the Winter Court and acquire the weapons needed to kill Tiandra, then go to the Summer Court and hopefully rescue the hostages prior to confronting her, and finally defeat her and make clear that Moreth is the rightful Summer King. At Chaedi’s prompting, the Prince of Hearts agreed to support Moreth, lending legitimacy to his claim while he’s still in Riii’s body. The Prince of Hearts also told Chaedi that he had sent Riddle to speak with the other Gloaming Fey about the situation in Sigil. Finally, they decided Moreth and Riii should meet with the Prince later to discuss potentially trusted allies who might be able to help them, especially with regards to entering the Summer Court and killing Tiandra. Once the meeting was over, Chaedi led the group outside to the front of the building to express concerns about what might happen to Riii during a private meeting with the Prince. Though Moreth was unconcerned, Riii pointed out that he trusted Tiandra and that got him killed, and she agreed to wear one of the Rings of the Protector to their meeting. With that done, they headed back inside…

The party re-enters the public house in the evening. It has filled with patrons, socializing, eating, and gambling. Bright decides on heading out for a walk and, realizing Dagger will be staying behind, Chaedi decides to accompany him. They head out, leaving Riii and Lo-Kag to entertain themselves at the Mended Heart.

Lo-Kag and Riii order some food for themselves and Dagger – after an exchange wherein Lo-Kag lists foods until Dagger taps on his head – and talk for a while about the Prince of Frost’s court and the type of feat he will demand in exchange for his boon. Riii says he is less likely to set tasks for them, and more likely to respect whatever impressive feats the party can set for themselves and then accomplish. She also notes that the Winter Court may in some ways be more welcoming than the Summer Court since, while politicking is still an important part of the culture, respect can be more directly earned by displaying one’s skills. Finally, Lo-Kag asks if Riii and Moreth want to be the ones to wield the ice weapons against Tiandra, and Riii responds in the affirmative — it should be them, if at all possible. Having not considered the danger the weapon could pose to herself and Moreth if Tiandra manages to turn it on them – something Lo-Kag is concerned about and Moreth is completely unafraid of – she suggests she may need the party to restrain Tiandra while she and Moreth perform the killing blow. Lo-Kag promises to distract the archfey for as long as she needs. This heavy bit of conversation leads Riii to some lighter, but related: the party’s combat tactics, and specifically how her raining smoke and fire on the battlefield interacts with Lo-Kag’s up-close approach to fighting. Despite her concerns, he assures her he can handle it, and muses about the possibility of developing a sense for vibrations. Like a mole rat. And, on the topic of animals… He looks around and finally locates the wolverine and cat from the night before, and draws Dagger’s attention to the former.

“Is that wolverine more like you or me?”

The hawk cocks her head at him, perhaps not understand his thoughts: he wonders if the animal is what it seems, or if it might be a druid. As she stares, he considers everything he’s learned about animals and those who take their forms, and finally decides it must only be a wolverine when people are looking at it. He tells Dagger he’s heard of such creatures. She continues to stare at him for some time, but he turns his attention back to Riii, and they decide to briefly part ways. Lo-Kag is interested in the bar while Riii, wanting to keep a clear head for her meeting, is set on playing the coin-based gambling game some of the patrons are playing.

Lo-Kag finds a place at the bar to begin drinking. He takes in all the sights of the tavern, and notices the Deva, Gyisheed talking to Dearlen about whether “Padhraig” is going to stand watch, and Dearlen points down at their feet, responding that they are not going to wake Padhraig up from his hangover. While the meaning of this is not clear to him, what is clear is that the group from last night seems quite hungover.

Riii joins a group of gamblers at their tables, managing to convince everyone there that she knows someone else playing. She is able to win a modest amount of coin before the Prince of Hearts appears in the bar, leading a procession of eight or so revellers, including the two shifters from the previous night through the Mended Heart. Most of the patrons in the bar cheer loudly in response to this and, as they leave the inn, follow them outside as well. While not everyone in the bar appears to understand what’s happening, they follow suit, and Riii and Lo-Kag do as well.

Chaedi and Bright Climb a Tree
Outside, Chaedi and Bright have had a nice, quiet walk in the rain and found a large tree. Wordlessly, Bright begins climbing it, easily making his way up through the large branches to reach the canopy, taking a place just beneath the topmost leaves. Chaedi follows behind him, making good time but ready to catch herself with her wings if she slips. She takes a seat near in and they gaze out at the Bright fall foliage, backed by the Feywild sunset. In the quiet, Chaedi spends a few moments praying. A calm, physical and spiritual silence follows, until it is broken by a sudden, pleasant sense of urgency from Melora: there is something worth heading back to the Mended Heart to see. As she and Bright climb back to the ground – Bright dropping lightly from one branch to the next, Chaedi letting her wings slow her descent – her sense of excitement grows, amplified by the intrinsic magics and natural ambience of the Feywild. Once on the ground, the two take off on a run, rested and filled with excitement.

Back at the inn, the crowd has gathered outside. The Prince of Hearts stands near the bottom of a hill, the two shifters in front of him holding hands. Around them, the crowd watches despite the rain. The black-clad workers form organized, equal lines on either side of the shifters, and the bard from the night before pulls out her flute and plays a cheerful dancing tune – though none of the assembled are dancing. Riii and Lo-Kag stand towards the back of the crowd. They watch to see if anything else is expected of them but nothing seems to be.

As the bard ends her song, the Prince of Hearts ensures everyone is settled before he begins speaking.

“I can attest to my ardent belief that these men, Bramble and Smoke intend to take on all of the responsibilities of a marriage, under the kind and watchful eye of Melora. And so out here, under the rain and the sky surround by the trees and grass, before I pronounce you fully and joyously joined in matrimony, under the auspices of your chosen goddess, I wonder if there might be someone who could say some appropriate words.”

It is at this moment that Bright and Chaedi crest the hill and Chaedi, after a moment spent assessing the situation, realizes she has been brought here to bless the union. She joins the ceremony, blesses them, then presents them with a consecrated seedling to go plant, before they run off into the night to plant the tree.

The ceremony completed, the group files back into the inn to relax for a while. The revellers from last night go to nap, but the party remains in the bar. Bright and Lo-Kag are having a few drinks. Chaedi is nursing one, taking her time in case something happens during *Riii*’s meeting with the Prince of Hearts. Riii abstains completely. As the meeting time approaches, Lo-Kag checks one more time to make sure Riii is comfortable meeting alone with him but she waves him off and goes to get a glass of wine for the meeting. Shortly after, a black-clad figure summons her, and she leaves to speak with him about members of the Fey Courts who would be her allies.

Another Meeting with the Prince of Hearts
Riii returns through the backrooms of the Mended Heart to meet with the Prince of Hearts in his private study. On the table are inkpots, quills, and what look to be journals. The Prince of Hearts is flipping through a small red volume when she enters, but he stands and walks around the desk to greet her, and they shake hands. He greets them both in a way that makes her roll her eyes gently.

“Your Highness, Your Soon-to-be-Highness.”

Riii places her glass of wine on the table, and he continues speaking.

“Before we begin, I must insist, that upon our success I will receive ample notice of the wedding.”

Riii laughs.

“If we succeed, I wouldn’t dream of it. You’d be the first to be invited.”

“Very well then, let us begin. Now, I would of course not ask you to leave the room, even if that were possible. However, this next bit might be a little boring for you. That said, it might be best to… Well, I’m not sure how it works, but, to let the good king speak for himself, rather than having you interpret for him.”

Riii checks in with Moreth, and he agrees that it would be safe for her to allow him to speak through her, with her permission. She tells him to be quick about it so they can get back to the party, and then allows her consciousness to be subsumed by Moreth, relegating herself to an annoying voice in the back of Moreth’s mind. Turnabout is fair play, after all. Recognizing the change, the Prince of Hearts assures Moreth they will work efficiently, knowing the Summer King likes to move quickly to get back to the finer things. Moreth agrees, not wanting to keep Riii from her party, and the two get to work.

It turns out that the red volume the Prince was reading through is a journal about love affairs – unrequited or otherwise. The other journal – black – contains a list of trusted names, contacts, and confidantes. As the two men suggest names to each other, discuss them, and write a select few down, Riii lets her mind wander. After a time, she begins to feel an interesting sensation: of existing in a sort of spirit form. After sitting with the feeling for some time, she realizes she can see her own arm in a ghostly, fiery form. She can also move around the room, independent of where her body is. She looks around the room for a time – during which she discovers that, while she could leave the room, she would only be walking into darkness – until she gets bored and decides to see if she can do anything physically with this form. She tries to take a parchment from Moreth – who hasn’t noticed her yet – and fails, her hand passing through it. Still, it does get his attention, and he looks over at her and laughs.

“I truly didn’t know you could do that!”

She tries to pinch him on the arm in retaliation, and finds she can feel her own body underneath her ghostly hand. Moreth teases her.

“Darling, I don’t think now’s the time.”

The Prince of Hearts, who couldn’t help but witness all of this, leans forward slightly, his hands clasped, but doesn’t interrupt. Riii points out to Moreth that he should have known about this, given he gives her back rubs. He responds that, while he knew he could do this sort of thing, he didn’t know she could.

Realizing they’ve been impolite, he apologizes to the Prince of Hearts – referring to him as Brand – and gets back to work. Though she considers interrupting again, Riii instead tries to conjure an illusion, and finds she can make a practice circle and coins to practice the gambling game she was playing earlier. Though she improves her skill during this time, she does eventually get bored again, and conjures a musician to play The Elven Lady Danced, which she dances to. As the illusory bard is starting the song up again, Moreth comments to the Prince of Hearts that they should stop soon, prompting them to begin going over their work.

After their review, they both agree they’ve come up with a good list of trustworthy allies. They laugh, the tension of tedious work slipping away as they decide it was worth the effort. Moreth stands and rounds the desk, slapping the Prince of Hearts on the back. From where she is, Riii can see *Moreth*’s outside in her body, standing a bit taller than her corporeal frame. She’s struck suddenly, watching him interact with an old friend, how lonely he must have been this whole time, with only her to talk to. She can see the camaraderie between the two men, and can tell he really missed this sort of interaction. He picks up on her feelings through their link with one another, recognizing the sadness she feels for the sadness he’s felt all this time. He turns and smiles at her sadly, and thanks her, before returning her body to her. Momentarily, she tries to resist, but understands immediately that if she does the arcane impact on her body would be severe.

The Prince of Hearts tells her he’s happy to assist more later, but that she should go enjoy herself now. She decides to pause to speak with him, however. She wonders if she could ask why there is no Queen of Hearts and, not being warned off by Moreth, does so, tacking on a question about why he is a prince and not a king. He responds that the second question is the easiest to answer: princes are more romantic, always seeking something new in opposition to the fixedness of kings. Riii rolls her eyes.

He opens the door back to the courtyard and gestures for her to go through first. As he follows, keeping slow pace with her, he responds to the first question.

“We archfey are, I’ve said before, fairly single-minded. There are many who would find me endearing, charming, because these are things I strive to be. But there are those who would love me more than they love Love. But there is a logic in what you say. How can I profess to enjoy love so much and not experience it myself. I do feel those feelings very often, for many, and those for whom they last, well they generally end up staying here for a while. Some for years upon years upon centuries. They help me do my work.”

He leaves it at that and looks her over. She considers this but doesn’t respond. She tells him if he ever does settle down she expects an invitation to the wedding. He responds that there’s one here every day and she’s welcome to attend them all if she can find the way. She insists she means his wedding, and points out that since she’s the future Summer Queen he would be remiss not to invite her. He agrees politely, and heads back into the inn with her, only to depart for another room immediately.

Meanwhile, at the bar…
In the meantime, back in the bar, Chaedi is cautiously socializing, while keeping track of Riii’s mental state through their paired rings. Although she’s mostly looking for signs of panic, she inevitably picks up that at a certain point the consciousness on the other end of the connection is likely Moreth. Her check-ins are infrequent and unobtrusive enough that she can maintain a conversation about court intrigue with the Goliath bartender Deiban, learning that the Gloaming Fey often operate as intermediaries between the other established courts of the Feywild, conducting diplomacy, espionage, and working behind the scenes in Feywild politics. While there is certainly a fair amount of work designed to make people fall in love – and Chaedi does hear several romantic stories demonstrating this – the actual tasks handed out depend on the capabilities of the agent. In any case, the Prince of Hearts tends not to be on the receiving end of much animosity from the other archfey.

Bright and Lo-Kag have continued to drink at the bar. Lo-Kag looks pensively at Bright and Dagger. He asks Bright if Dagger really is his mother, and Bright responds affirmatively, smiling. Lo-Kag doesn’t find this so unusual: where he’s from, they would say Bright and Dagger share a single spirit. Bright thinks about this, looking at Dagger, who nudges his head and then moves a strand of his hair behind his ear with her beak. He asks Lo-Kag to expand on the idea and Lo-Kag responds with a question: when Bright dreams, does he dream of himself as a tiefling or a hawk? Bright tells him the answer is both, sometimes. Lo-Kag nods sagely.

“It wouldn’t surprise me too much if someday you found yourself flying as a hawk in your waking life.”

Bright lifts up his arms. “It would surprise me. No wings.”

“Not in Bright the tiefling’s body, but maybe Bright the bird’s body. Maybe Dagger will make room for you someday.”

Dagger stops preening Bright and turns to look at Lo-Kag. She extends a wing around *Bright*’s head. Lo-Kag continues speaking.

“It is strange Melora sent you a hawk, specifically.”

“Why?”

“Well, I don’t get the chance to speak my own language very often, but I can teach you some of it now.”

Bright nods. “Our word for tieflings, for demons, devils, anyone who traces a lineage back to the abyss… Our word for that is ‘auri’.”

“Auri.”

“But we have another word ‘auri’. The same sound, the same shape, that make eagle, hawk, a bird of this shape.”

Bright looks at Dagger, and then back at Lo-Kag, pleased. “That’s a nice thought.”

“It happens by chance, but I think so.”

It is at this point that Riii enters. Though she doesn’t mention it to the group, she’s feeling sad about her realization regarding Moreth and how lonely he’s been. She’s less energetic than when she left, and doesn’t bother with an ostentatious entrance. Lo-Kag greets her.

“*Riii*. You’re back.”

She can pick up from this brief interaction that he’s a bit drunk. She pats him on the arm and nods at Bright. He raises his hand to show the tattoo, which only makes her more sad, but she gives him a little smile in return.

“If Chaedi asks, and I know she will, I’m fine, it went well, I just need a bit of air. But I’ll come back and then we can properly get drunk.”

She leaves them, ready to retreat to the hot springs to be with her own (and Moreth’s) thoughts for a while. Chaedi, however, catches her sad expression and, after confirming her suspicion with a quick check on the ring, catches up to her. Riii initially pushes back, but ultimately decides having Chaedi with her would actually be nice, though she warns her that she will be in quiet contemplation for a while.

Hot Springs Interlude
They head to the hot spring in silence, and take up positions against one of the walls of the pool. Chaedi sits a little away from Riii, giving her space for now.

Riii chats with Moreth about the pang of loneliness she caught and when they might be able to separate. She feels bad for how she’s treated him, but he tells her everything is fine. Of course, she can tell it’s not, but she can also tell he’s only lying because he doesn’t want her to worry.

For her part, Chaedi considers some of what she heard in the bar, as well as how she might be able to communicate some of what happened in Sigil in a way that is both appropriate to a follower of Lolth and won’t dampen the spirits of everyone at the bar – and potentially get her kicked out.

Meanwhile, at the bar…
Lo-Kag looks around and locates Kae-Gu and Maykiss making their way downstairs with a goliath drum. They detour to chat with him after he waves at them and they discuss their days and the earlier wedding ceremony. Lo-Kag understands why they decided to come here, but they correct him and point out that they only stumbled across the place while out exploring. They keep meaning to leave, but are having too much fun to quite manage it. He asks how they managed to cross the plane to get here, and they look back at him in confusion. Confused at their confusion, Lo-Kag turns to Bright, who tells them that they’re in the Feywild, in the Prince of Hearts’ domain. They both stand still for a moment, letting this sink in, then Maykiss speaks.

“You know, this explains a lot.”

Bright frowns. “You didn’t think you were here?”

“We just set out from Ratheradir and started walking south, inland, to see what we could see and, um, ended up here on a different plane?” Kae-Gu sounds shocked.

“Maybe you did walk into a fairy ring,” Lo-Kag suggests.

Bright nods. “If you know how to look, there are cracks between planes. Little places you can travel through. People find them.”

Reflecting on their own experiences travelling to the Feywild, Lo-Kag asks if there was a moment when then suddenly felt different. They look at each other, and tell him there was a day when they woke up and the air seemed wonderfully fresh. They somehow must have arrived here while they were asleep.

“I feel like the proprietor of the inn might owe you an explanation, but you are a long way from home,” Lo-Kag tells them.

They seem worried, but Lo-Kag assures them that while the Prince of Hearts does love interfering, he enjoys spending time with people who are in love and they are in no danger. Still, they decide that they should leave soon, especially since they don’t know how long it will take them to get back home. Lo-Kag suggests Bright give them tips, but Bright says – in not so many words – that while he can act as a guide he’s not sure he could tell them exactly how to find the cracks he’s talking about. He suggests the Prince of Hearts might know how to get them home, and Lo-Kag agrees. Kae-Gu leaves to find the Prince of Hearts immediately, leaving her drum with Lo-Kag. Maykiss, though at first reluctant to leave the object, follows her once Lo-Kag tells her he’s aware of the work that goes into making one.

After Maykiss has left, Bright and Lo-Kag continue to drink, the former enough so that he manages to talk his way from comments on the earlier wedding to comments on Chaedi, and how it was nice to go on a walk with her, and she did well at the ceremony, and she deserves to be happy, and… Lo-Kag indulges him and agrees with everything he says.

After a time, there’s a movement on their left and someone asks if a nearby seat is taken. Lo-Kag offers the newcomer the space, and recognizes him as the human from the night before, now accompanied by a large, beautiful golden retriever. The human thanks him and sits down, asking Lo-Kag for his name and introducing himself as Kodun Dek, the smith. Lo-Kag apologizes for their behaviour the night before, and says they hope to make up for it tonight, explaining that they’re taking the night to relax before the next leg of their journey. Kodun Dek also introduction himself to Bright, who returns the introduction. He asks them about themselves, and especially about what brought them to the Mended Heart. Lo-Kag doesn’t provide full details, but explains that they had been in the Feywild previously and that when a serious interplanar accident occurred while they were in Sigil they decided to find safety somewhere familiar. He’s not sure if he should trust the man, given that Tiandra could send an assassin here as easily as she could to Sigil. Kodun Dek gives him the impression of a host at a party, making polite inquiries, trying to make a guest comfortable, but perhaps not wholly invested in the responses.

After listening to Lo-Kag’s explanation, Kodun Dek points out that in order to find the Mended Heart they must have either had an invitation or been travelling with someone in love. Lo-Kag responds that one is as likely as the other, given who he is travelling with. Kodun Dek presses slightly, asking to know more about the love story Lo-Kag has indirectly indicated. Lo-Kag considers this, then…

“Well, it’s not my story to tell, but your patron archfey around these parts has had his heart set on matchmaking my friend here with another one of my group for a couple of months now, and has just set his sights on the other two.”

Kodun Dek leans forward. “The Prince of Hearts took a personal interest and then gave up? Now that’s a story I would like to hear told…”

Unlike Lo-Kag, Bright sees no reason to distrust Kodun Dek, and doesn’t feel the need to lie about his feelings or their history. He tells the smith that the Prince of Hearts though he and Chaedi should be together, though Bright at the time didn’t recognize his own feelings. In the end, Chaedi didn’t feel the same way, but that’s alright because he just like being able to see her every day and…

It’s Kodun Dek’s turn to listen to Bright as he goes on about Chaedi, and he seems more invested than Lo-Kag. Bright isn’t sad, despite what might be seen as some sad elements to the story. Mostly, he’s just very earnest. Kodun Dek happily lets him go on, drinking his drink as he listens. After he’s been speaking for a while, Kodun Dek’s dog puts her head in *Bright*’s lap, causing him to pause momentarily. When Kodun Dek explain she’s looking to be pet, Bright happily obliges and continues talking.

The night continues on… Kae-Gu comes back for her drum… The bard and the human banjo player begin to play a tune… For now, the night is calm…

Will our heroes truly be able relax tonight and get some well-deserved rest? Will Lo-Kag discover the truth behind Dearlen’s animal friends? Will Bright run out of things to love about Chaedi? Will Chaedi succeed in her covert Lolthian mourning ritual? Will Riii have an emotionally mature conversation with Moreth and return to the party? While they do this will Vecna be making more…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

View
Session 73: Princes and Planning
In Which the Party Plans a Coup

When we last left our heroes, they arrived at the Mended Heart and almost immediately got kicked out for Chaedi’s insistence on meeting with the Prince of Hearts about the situation in Sigil. Lo-Kag, insisting that the entire party was to blame, also managed to stop them from being dismissed from the Prince’s domain entirely. As a result, the party was forced into a timeout on the front lawn, where the party expressed some concern – and, on Riii’s part, anger – with Chaedi over her recent actions: she had been constantly away from the party and not telling them what was happening. Chaedi responded with equal frustration, insisting that she didn’t need sleep and that, while they couldn’t go back to Sigil, seeking aid for the city should be a priority. After some kind words from Lo-Kag and Bright, she calmed down, and the party returned to the inn and settled in for some more light-hearted fun involving tabby cats and changelings. Having been impressed upon that the situation in Sigil was a life or death one, the Prince of Hearts met briefly with the party to learn about Sigil and get a very general idea of why they were in his domain. That conversation over, the party went their separate ways: Riii to the hot springs, Lo-Kag to bed, and Bright and Chaedi on a walk, from which Bright returned sometime later to also go to sleep, while Chaedi stayed out. We find our heroes the morning after…

Waking Up

Riii, after her time in the hot spring, heads back to her room to trance. The room isn’t as grand as what she had in the Summer Court, but charming: there’s gold leaf around the mirror and the furniture is nice and comfortable. The bed cover has a scene sewn into it, like a tapestry. She’s comfortable, aware of the dawn coming through the window more brightly, and movement downstairs as people begin going about their days, eating, chatting, laughing softly, nothing loud enough to disturb her. She can hear Lo-Kag snoring lightly in the next room over. Aware that he and Bright will wake up shortly, she gets up and looks in the mirror, trying to decide how to dress for the day. She catches sight of some red in the mirror, and turns to find a hinged closet door slightly open to reveal boldly coloured clothing. Though she’s certain the door wasn’t there the day before, she doesn’t feel there’s any threat hiding in it, so she approaches. There’s a small assortment of dresses in the closet, varyingly ornate. She’s uncertain about whether or not to put one on, but Moreth tells her this is something the Prince of Hearts has set up for her, and so she should feel comfortable. She’s temped, but worried she’ll regret putting on something so nice if she can’t take it with her when she leaves. Moreth tells her that whether she will be allowed to or not will depend on the Prince. She picks a coral red dress, not overly ornate, but with a bodice covered in gems, and some elegant black straps to interrupt the red.

Lo-Kag, in his somehow correctly-sized bed, has a dream about speaking with an older halfling from Ratheradir, Mr. Cherrypot. It’s a dream version of a conversation that happened just before he first met the other members of the party. The farm is far closer to the city than it should be: from here, he can see through the gates and into the city, even though the farm should be miles away from the city walls. Mr. Cherrypot has brown hair, slicked back because he runs his dirty, sweaty hands through it while he works, and grown long until his wife forces him to cut it. Lo-Kag is there to help with some planting. They chat about stew and a foot race coming up, and Lo-Kag tells him he’s thinking of participating and spending more time in the city. Mr. Cherrypot jokes he might have an unfair advantage in the race, and that he shouldn’t become a “towny” and stop listening to the people outside the city. Lo-Kag scoffs and asks the halfling if he can imagine him hanging up his boots and buying an apartment in the city. Mr. Cherrypot turns over some soil, then says no he can’t, and that would be a sight. At this point, some of the real world appears, and as Lo-Kag turns over some more soil he says Sigil’s not doing so well these days. Mr. Cherrypot tells him he’s heard as much, but all you can do is your part, and as long as Sigil stays in their spot in the sun they’ll eventually get their crop. Lo-Kag glances over at the gate to the city, and can see people lining up to start the race. He sees an elf with bright wings and a tiefling with the head of an eagle, and finds this somewhat odd. Then, he gets closer somehow, and can see a flicker of flame, and then a huge portal opens and a column of smoke leaks into the sky and people start coming through the portal, all shapes and sizes. They look a bit worried. Lo-Kag finds himself thinking “Oh good, they’re safe here.” He turns to Mr. Cherrypot and says “Oh good, Riii made it to the race, look at all the people she brought.” The dream fades.

Lo-Kag awakens to find the midday sun glaring through his window. Though he’s still somewhat tired, he’s much better-rested than the day before. Standing, he takes stock of his clothes and his room. His clothing, after the collapse of Sigil’s buildings and his own transformation, is dirty and torn. Thankfully, his room contains a closet, in the form of a small storage space he can walk into. It holds a couple of things, but what catches his attention at first is a series of wooden cubbies in the wall. There, he finds folded clothes made of simple cloth in browns and greys. They look like they should fit him, but he hesitates, thinking that perhaps he has ended up in someone else’s room. He wraps a towel around his waist and cracks open the door, hoping to spot someone from the night before that he can ask about the clothing. From his door, he can see over the wooden balcony and down onto the main floor. Downstairs, there are more than a dozen people. He searches their faces, finding he doesn’t recognize any except one: another goliath, one in knew in Ratheradir. Her name is Kae-Gu and she was an apprentice iron worker. She’s sitting opposite someone he doesn’t recognize: a halfling. The halfling’s head is mostly shaved except for a sort of fuzz in light white. They seem to be a young adult age, and they’re chatting over some plates of food. Lo-Kag decides he’s still dreaming, so it’s fine if he puts on the clothes in the closet instead of tracking down Riddle.

Bright, Riii, and Lo-Kag all exit their rooms, fully dressed — and, in Bright’s case, fully equipped with gear — around the same time. They greet each other and chat briefly. Bright is obviously surprised at Riii’s dress. Lo-Kag tells them he had a wonderful dream, though he lies about the content and tells Bright and Riii they were fighting against Vecna with the Summer Court. Noticing Chaedi’s absence, he asks where she is and Bright, after checking the ring, assures him she is safe and probably sleeping. Then Lo-Kag, in good spirits, excuses himself to go downstairs and see if the goliath at the table truly is Kae-Gu.

Bright and Riii follow, Riii extending her arm and waiting for Bright to take her cue and link arms with her. Once he does, they also head downstairs, and notice that the entire interior of the Mended Heart has changed its form and layout. The casks and bottle behind the bar are a smaller stock, and there’s a large, arched, doorway into the kitchen. They walk through the tables, noticing most are built for two, but happen across one made for three, conveniently in precisely the direction they were headed. They sit down for breakfast, and Riii realizes that the Prince of Hearts reshapes this place to suit his whim — it is, after all, close to the very core of his domain. She gives Bright the simple explanation that it was done by magic and, before she can provide any details, a black-clad server with a heart stitched into their clothes approaches and sets down two beautifully-arranged dishes. In front of Bright they place a large bowl of fisherman’s stew and fresh bread, and in front of Riii they place [REDACTED]. Riii is pleased with Bright’s little gasp when he sees his meal, and listens to his explanation of the Tinderwood dish. Riii surmises that the restaurant provides whatever the diner wants most in the moment. As the conversation moves on, Riii asks if Bright saw Chaedi again yesterday, and he tells her they went for a walk and talked, which he thinks helped, and that she’s still asleep. Riii says this is good.

Lo-Kag approaches the table where Kae-Gu and her halfling friend are seated, and just as he opens his mouth to speak, the entire restaurant shakes with a long and loud rumble of thunder

Chaedi awakens with a start in the forest, on top of her makeshift Hitting Stone. Heavy drops of rain fall lazily from the sky, striking her in the face. She stirs, frustrated with the lingering muscle pain the night has left her with. At the base of the stone, she spots three orange foxes looking up at her. When she makes eye contact with them, one of them lets out a shrill communicative yip. The sky opens up, rain beginning to fall heavily, and the foxes retreat to the underbrush. Within seconds, Chaedi is drenched. She stretches, and then flies up the cliffside, heading back towards the Mended Heart. Before landing on the path, she looks back once more in the direction of the foxes, but sees no trace of them.

As she walks back towards the inn, Chaedi applies some minor healing magic to herself to hide the damage to her hands from the previous night. The light from her wings refracts through the rain and mist, surround her with a soft yellow-white halo. She reaches out in prayer to Lolth, still frustrated, but somewhat contrite for her anger. She ruminates on what grief looks like in Kerradunath, and Lolth responds with some drow religious teachings — the proper way to apologize, and the proper way to make amends. She thanks her god, and tries to enjoy the rain the rest of the way back.

Old Friends and New Plans

Back at the Mended Heart, Kae-Gu stands up and pulls Lo-Kag into a big hug, recognizing him immediately. She introduces her spouse, Maykiss Clearwater, and tells Lo-Kag that they are newlyweds, and left Ratheradir around 2 weeks ago, looking for a new start. They decided they had saved up enough to travel a bit and have a honeymoon, left without knowing exactly where they were going, and ended up here.

Before the conversation can continue, a server approaches Lo-Kag with a huge bowl of a potato and cheese porridge, and Lo-Kag excuses himself to go sit back with Bright and Riii, promising to catch up later with the newlyweds. They state they’ll likely remain at the inn if he wants to talk later, given the state of the weather.

Chaedi approaches the Mended Heart, and sees that the outside configuration of the building has also changed dramatically. She enters and takes in the revelry, and just as she realizes how soaked she is, someone approaches her with a warm towel, and leads her directly to a private room where she can change and restore herself. She looks down at her feet, and realizes that like Tinderwood’s buildings, there is beach sand between the floorboards. On the wall she finds shelves in a familiar style, and light, airy clothing in the Tinderwood tradition. After taking a moment to enjoy the feeling of sand under her feet, she changes quickly and heads back downstairs to sit with the others.

At the table with Bright and Riii, Lo-Kag is just beginning to ask about the Prince of Frost. Chaedi approaches the table and sits, nodding carefully at Riii, who nods back but is otherwise distracted by Lo-Kag’s questions and an internal dialogue with Moreth.

Riii explains that the Prince of Frost is just as old as the other archfey. His castle is atop a mountain that looks like a tree, which the party has noticed every time they’ve come to the Feywild. Though he and Moreth had long been locked in ritualistic struggles, one never overpowered the other for long. Riii suspects that the Prince of Frost created the dagger used to kill Moreth, but he disagrees, arguing the Prince was simply a good rival, though he doesn’t doubt the dagger came from somewhere in the Prince’s realm. The Prince typically wields a sword, not a dagger, so it’s unlikely he would have had one made for himself. She notes that there is a counterpart weapon, a fire weapon, locked away somewhere in the Summer Court’s territory. Lo-Kag asks about the animosity between the Prince and Tiandra, and Riii, recognizing that this is a touchy subject for Moreth, responds briefly that it might have something to do with Lord Oren of the Green Fey.

Lo-Kag changes gears, thinking out loud about how to get into the Prince of Frost’s domain and get the weapon Tiandra used against Moreth, or something equivalent. They could use Bright to get to the Prince of Frost’s castle, get the weapon, and then travel to Senaliesse for a surprise attack. Tiandra won’t have had time to receive word about what the party has done, and might even think herself safe enough to fight the party in person. Moreth interrupts, telling Riii that, whatever the plan is, it has to be obvious that they are claiming the throne for Moreth. Otherwise, the party risks being mobbed. Subterfuge might be better than a direct attack in that case. Lo-Kag thinks about this, and suggests that he can approach Tiandra as a potential ally, tell her that his only concern is stopping Vecna, not interfering in Feywild politics, but Chaedi reminds him that he is not a particularly skilled actor. Instead, she suggests she might be able to use the location of The Password’s corpse to their advantage. In Riii’s view, all of this is premature, as they still do not have a solid plan, and she suggests that they seek the Prince of Heart’s counsel.

When a server next comes by, the party inquires as to where they might find the Prince of Hearts, and is pointed towards a door that leads out into a covered courtyard.

Speaking with The Prince of Hearts

The party steps out into the courtyard. Through the rain that cascades through the uncovered centre area, they can see the Prince of Hearts across the yard. Before they begin moving towards him – along the covered outside of the yard – Lo-Kag asks Chaedi if she has sensed any Shadowfell portals recently. She suggests they might not be useful to Vecna anymore, but agrees that if some still exist, or if more are made, they pose a lot of danger. She senses the area, but feels nothing.

Around the other side of the yard, the party finds the Prince standing in a little leisure area, with a large tree stump big enough for two people to sit on, and a swinging, empty swing. He watches a moment before asking “Isn’t it beautiful?” Chaedi looks closer and realizes that the swing set is occupied by a pair of ghosts, and after a moment, the Prince of Hearts leads them away to an adjoining room, giving the spirits some privacy. The room is similar to the one they were in the day before, but with the addition of a window. In the middle is a large desk being used as a table, with a number of chairs around it. As they enter and take their seats, the Prince turns to Chaedi and informs her that Riddle has volunteered to take her message about Sigil to the Gloaming Fey, but it will take a few days to arrange a meeting with all of them. Chaedi thanks him, slightly surprised that he followed through on their discussion.

With this out of the way, the larger discussion begins. Lo-Kag opens by asking why the Gloaming Fey want Moreth returned to the throne. The Prince of Hearts responds that assassination is unheard of among the archfey, and would set a poor precedent. Besides that, Moreth wasn’t a bad king, and some of the archfey liked working with him. In addition, some people are worried about the alliance between Tiandra and Oren, and feel that the balance of power is shifting too far. Thus, he and others would appreciate a king with legitimacy and respect for the old ways, and agree that Moreth shouldn’t have been removed in the first place.

Riii takes this in, then asks the rest of the party to make sure they’re all agreed that the plan right now is to access the Summer Court, and that they are here to ask for help. The Prince says he’s happy to help, as long as they have a plan. Riii summarizes the obstacles the party needs to face as follows:

1. They need access to the Summer Court or Tiandra.
2. They need to get the hostages out of the Summer Court before the confrontation, so Tiandra can’t harm them.
3. They need a weapon.

Lo-Kag suggests finding someone in the Summer Court who shares the Prince’s sentiments, someone who might still be loyal to Moreth. The Prince suggests he might know some people, but he’d like to sit down with Riii and Moreth to consider some names. He explains that there wasn’t a culling of sympathizers after Moreth’s disappearance. Rather, loyalties shifted slowly, and people loyal to Moreth were either moved to different offices or demoted. Lo-Kag asks when all of this happened, how long ago, and how those under Tiandra’s rule would characterize her as a queen. The Prince tells them the change happened centuries ago, and that though Tiandra can be strict she is generally seen as fair rather than a tyrant.

Riii interrupts them, asking how this relates to their obstacles, and Lo-Kag explains he think that Moreth loyalists in the Summer Court could be used as help or a distraction for Bright to get in and free the hostages. Moreth doesn’t fully disagree, but tells Riii it will be difficult to get into Senaliesse and then out, leading a group of people. The Prince of Hearts echoes this. Lo-Kag argues that if the loyalists cause a distraction this will give Bright and the hostages more leeway when it comes to their escape. The Prince agrees, and says he can send out the information to those they decide to contact, suggesting the use of some signal so the loyalists know when to begin the distraction.

The conversation then shifts to the weapon. Riii says the party needs both a weapon and a cage of ice. Lo-Kag suggests this will require approaching the Prince of Frost for aid, causing Riii to ask how the Prince of Frost might feel about Moreth’s return. The Prince of Hearts responds that that is a complex question. The two have had an ongoing rivalry for centuries, and though the Prince of Frost may have no love for Tiandra this does not mean he will want to see Moreth returned to the throne. Despite his lack of concrete knowledge about how the Prince of Frost might react, however, the Prince of Hearts offers some general advice: the party should follow his customs, remember that he doesn’t respond well to pleas to emotion or kindness, and seek to impress him with feats of strength and skill. This inspires Lo-Kag: maybe the party could propose to win the weapon from him in a contest. The Prince of Hearts thinks this is a good idea, and suggests the following:

“Arrive at his castle, claiming your status as champions of the Arena at the Court of Stars. Ask for shelter and welcome. According to his own customs, he should welcome you, even if he is not particularly pleased to have you. Ingratiate yourself by following his customs… and understand that you work off his timescale, not yours. Given your prowess, I imagine he should be quite curious about you. Perhaps instead of a wager, the Prince of Frost could have you perform some feat for him, and upon achieving this feat, you may ask a boon of the Prince of Frost. It will not be easy, but I believe the four of you could manage it together.”

Lo-Kag asks if asking for a boon after accomplishing a task is common in the Prince of Frosts’ domain. The Prince of Hearts say it is, but that people aren’t commonly successful in completing their tasks. However, he feels the party should be able to achieve something suitably momentous. Once the party has his respect, he will be easier to negotiate with.

Chaedi asks if the Prince of Frosts’ knowing what they intend to do with the weapons will be a problem. The Prince responds that this likely can’t be hidden, so the best strategy would be to convince him their course of action is for the best. Lo-Kag thinks that having the fate of the planes on their shoulders should be enough, but Chaedi questions if an archfey would be concerned, given how much power they hold over their domain and, when all working together, presumably have over the plane as a whole.

Riii changes the direction of conversation, returning to the way in which they will have to get into the city. The party seems to need to either rush in, drawing attack, or sneak in, which may make claims of legitimacy more difficult. The Prince says he usually operates with whispers, and can’t offer them people. Having someone to vouch for them, however, might be of use. This prompts Chaedi to ask him if he himself would vouch for Moreth. He stands, and goes to look out the window, considering this option and how dangerous it might be for him. He turns back to the party.

“I suppose I must, mustn’t I? Very well, I’m prepared to attest to the truth of King Moreth’s identity.”

Riii grins at the Prince of Hearts, pleased with this. Given that this seems to confirm subterfuge as their route into the city, Lo-Kag prompts Chaedi, but then carries on for her, suggesting they might be able to convince Tiandra that their true purpose is stopping Vecna. Given that this isn’t far from the truth, they might be able to convince her of it and make her more willing to meet with them. Then, Riii could appear and attack her. The Prince notes that if they go in without Riii then Tiandra may take them hostage to get back at her. Chaedi responds that becoming hostages might be one more route into the city. The Prince nods at this, but doesn’t respond otherwise, and suggests that they take a break before Riii and Moreth come back to discuss the list of names later in the evening.

Post-Talk Plans

As the party walks through the courtyard, Chaedi motions for them to follow her. They travel through the main floor of the inn and out the front door, where they stop underneath an eave. Chaedi instructs Bright to give Riii back the Ring of the Protector, and explains she’s concerned about Riii meeting with the Prince of Hearts alone. Moreth seems unconcerned, but Riii and Chaedi both point out that he was unconcerned about Tiandra and that didn’t end well for him. Chaedi also asks if there was ever a time that the Gloaming Fey, or the Prince of Hearts specifically, had more land or people. Moreth tells her this is how it has always been, perhaps because of the size of their domains. Finally, Chaedi expresses her gratitude to Riii for addressing the issue of the hostages on her own, and the two make up more firmly over their fight the night before.

With this discussion complete, the party largely heads back inside, except for Bright, who decides to stretch his legs and do some climbing in the nearby forest before dinner. Back inside, Lo-Kag searches for Kae-Gu, and Chaedi tries to socialize with the patrons who don’t look like they’re here on romantic dates. She is shadowed by Riii, who is more interested in having a relaxing girls’ night with her, but is settling for chatting with the commoners for now.

Will the plan the party is formulating truly work to get them safely into Senaliesse – and the hostages safely out? Can the Prince of Hearts be trusted with helping plan the coup? Even if it all works out, will the army of the Summer Court be willing to fight Vecna’s forces for a king they haven’t seen in centuries? Answers to all these and more, next time on…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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Session 72: The Mended Heart
In Which the Party Gets Kicked Out

When we last left our heroes, they had survived Sigil’s crash into the Far Realm and spent some time trying to save those around the city’s temple to Corellon. Though they’d initially thought to use a nearby portal to make their way to Senaliesse, Bright told the party he could allow them to bypass Tiandra’s domain and bring them directly to the Prince of Hearts. They followed him through the city streets, leaving a brief message for Mr. Mole at the temple to Melora, before walking into an alley where Bright opens a long, magical tunnel. The party traveled through this space for 24 hours, not in danger of attack, but unable to fully rest. They exited into a autumnal forest and, after a brief rest during which Bright climbed a tree to identify their surroundings, began to head down the hill to an inn, the sign for which depicts a broken heart sewn back together with rope…

At The Mended Heart

As they walk down the hill into the clearing where The Mended Heart sits, Bright and Lo-Kag are both in excellent spirits. Bright is smiling to himself, taking in the sensation of being in nature once again. Sitting on his shoulder, Dagger grooms him while he walks. Next to him, Lo-Kag’s lively excitement is radiating off of him. He leans over and asks Riii if people in the Feywild tend beehives. Though Riii’s mood is somewhat worse than her two companions’, her curiosity overtakes her mood and she answers in the affirmative, wondering at his asking such a thing. When he suggests mead, her mood brightens further, and further still when Moreth tells her he has fond memories of The Mended Heart. They should be safe here. Chaedi, meanwhile, isn’t quite relaxed. She smiles faintly, unable to deny the impact of the transition to the Feywild, but the expression has something brittle about it.

They reach the door, and Lo-Kag throws it open. Inside, he and Chaedi both notice that the building is bigger on the inside than it should be based on the outside. There are doors that clearly lead to additional rooms that should not fit into the space viewed from outside. The decor is alternating hearts and drinkware — wine glasses and cups — carved into the walls and furniture. The smell of food lingers on the air, though none of it is left on the tables — or perhaps it hasn’t arrived yet.

Riii doesn’t notice these details, too distracted by the music: a half-elf bard with short, spiky blond hair plays a flute. Her eyes are closed, and she sways enthusiastically, playing something adventurous. Beyond her, there’s a bar, but no one is tending it. Behind it, there are bottles and kegs, and more of these sit on the several round tables that have been pushed together at the centre of the room. Six people are seated at the tables. A stout, human man sits with an elven woman in his lap. Next to them, an identical-looking elf sits in another chair. An eladrin woman is also seated, clearly enjoying the music, while a quieter deva man sits next to her. Finally, there is a dwarven woman, seated on a chair that has a wolverine slumbering under it. On another table, a big orange tabby cat eyes them lazily for a moment. Several of the people are wearing similarly crafted pieces of armour and jewelry, made from bands of polished steel, and they all cheer when the party enters the establishment, raising their glasses or fist. The bard finishes off the last few notes of her tune and joins them.

As the party decides how to react to this welcome, another dwarf, this one in a dark cloak, comes around from behind the bar, carrying a tray of drinks. They recognize him: it’s Riddle! He joins in the welcome, offering drinks, and promising to get Lo-Kag food when he asks for it. Before anyone can get comfortable, however, Chaedi is already approaching him, all but demanding to speak with the Prince of Hearts. Riddle agrees to fetch him, but only after he has served the party drinks. He doesn’t seem particularly hurried, and when her pushing gets doesn’t speed him along, she suggests she will go find the Prince of Hearts herself. Made uncomfortable by her pushiness, the deva — sporting a sheathed broadsword. He places a hand on her shoulder, stating pleasantly but firmly that the Prince of Hearts will join the party on his own time, and that anyone who disrupts their festivities will find themselves unwelcomed in the court. He states they will only rush to him if it is a matter of life and death.

Chaedi apologizes, but stands her ground, explaining the situation in Sigil briefly, declaring that it in fact is a matter of life and death. The deva lingers, until the human at the table tells him “Go ahead and get him, Gyisheed. I’ll keep an eye on our friends here.”

The deva leaves, and Riddle gets back to pouring drinks for the party, and Chaedi and Riii begin to argue. Riddle, attempting to smooth things over, says "This is not a place for fighting, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.” Riii, frustrated with Chaedi, bitterly jokes that the angel isn’t going to fight her, so Riddle shouldn’t be concerned. Chaedi doesn’t rise to the bait, asserting calmly that Riii is correct: Chaedi isn’t going to fight her.

Despite the fragile peace established, and Lo-Kag’s attempt to maintain it, Gyisheed never makes it out of the room to search for the Prince: instead, he return and asks the party to leave the inn until they have resolved their differences. Riii, through the fog of anger, recognizes their good fortune in not being dismissed from the Prince’s domain entirely, thanks in very large part to Lo-Kag’s attempts at diplomacy. The party agrees easily to head outside.

Outside The Mended Heart

As they head out onto the grass, Bright expresses confusion over what just happened. Chaedi responds that, while she’s not sure, she and Riii are having an argument and this has frustrated the followers of the Prince of Hearts. She then turns to Lo-Kag, and expresses frustration with him for having agreed that they should all leave, given that she could have left alone, leaving the others to meet the Prince. Bright will hear none of this, and so everyone stays outside to stage an intervention for Chaedi.

Riii tells Chaedi she’s frustrated with her always going off on her own, without discussing her plans, and that it’s hard to understand what her thinking is behind certain actions. Though he doesn’t echo the frustration, Bright agrees that Chaedi has shut them out. She explains to them that, because she doesn’t sleep anymore — this is news to the party — she has more time to do other things, and she’s never left them to do anything they would find important. Though this wording sparks a small argument, ultimately the others focus here on convincing Chaedi to rest and communicate with them more. Riii points out that, had she known what Chaedi was going to say, she would have stopped her and shared her knowledge of this realm. Lo-Kag suggests her gods might be pushing her too hard, which earns a particularly frustrated response from Chaedi, who is both obviously getting angrier and trying to move the conversation along quickly to get back to what she considers important: finding out if the Prince can offer any help to Sigil. Trying to calm her, and perhaps search for wisdom, Bright lies down in the grass in a position Riii associates with him praying. Chaedi follows him but, as people — from her perspective — ignore continue to ignore her main issue of concern, she grows more and more upset. Though the source of light in her stays constant, streams of Bright light drip out of sections of her network of old scars, scorching the grass they’re sitting in and turning it to ash in which new blooms spring up, only to be burned away and replaced in a rapid, largely silent, cycle. Lolth speaks to her, and whispers to her again that despair is a luxury, which only serves to upset her further. Finally, Melora steps in, and the party watches her briefly freeze as she’s suddenly on a beach. The waves crash in the background, the sand beneath her is soft, the sun above her hot. For a moment, she’s home, and then she crashes back into the Feywild just as quickly, letting out a sob. The cycle of burning, fertilizing, and growing ceases as she calms down.

Though she’s non-committal in her promise to rest more later, Chaedi does collect herself enough to joke very slightly with Riii about their differing views of the situation, before Riii gives the group a short breakdown of the Gloaming Fey’s customs, to help them avoid making any further social missteps. With this information in mind, the party heads back inside.

Back Inside The Mended Heart

After some brief apologies, the party is tentatively let back into The Mended Heart, and the party picks back up. Riii, Bright, and Dagger head over to the bar. Chaedi, calmer but uncomfortable with the festive atmosphere, freezes near the entrance and lets her gaze drift towards the animals she spotted earlier. Picking up on this, Lo-Kag announces to her that he is also interested in whether petting a cat in the Feywild is as pleasant as he imagines, and then heads towards it. He takes a seat, strategically ignoring the cat and letting it get used to him before he reaches a hand out to stroke it. As she sees it getting more comfortable, Chaedi also approaches slowly to pet it as well. As everyone settles into their seats, they finally taste their mead. Each party member, despite getting the same kind of mead, gets a different impression of it, based on their feelings towards love and current romantic feelings. Riii — inspired by Moreth — and Bright find the drink delicious. Lo-Kag finds it quite pleasant, while Chaedi finds it passable, her mood very soured by the lack of urgency.

Riii approaches the bard from earlier and asks if she knows anything King Moreth would have enjoyed. She begins happily playing Smoke’s Jig, and the twin elven women hop up and invite Bright and Riii to dance. Bright allows himself to be talked into it, while Riii allows Moreth to take over and show off his dancing skill. As they dance, the eladrin woman at the table claps along, and nudges her deva friend to do the same.

Back at the cat table, Chaedi and Lo-Kag are greeted by the dwarf woman, Dearlen, who tells them the cat’s name is Tabby. When Chaedi and Lo-Kag mention the wolverine, she tells them his name is Wolvie and he’s her guard. At this description, Chaedi points Dagger out to her, and she and Lo-Kag watch with some amusement as she excitedly heads off to find something for Dagger to eat. As she runs off, the dance concludes, and the entire room erupts in laughter, as Bright realizes to his dismay that Vigg, his dance partner, has transformed from the form of an elven woman to an almost-perfect duplicate of Bright. Though he initially reacts by dropping into a crouch, uncertain if he should be prepared to fight, the elven woman quickly comes to her friend’s aid, and Vigg transforms back into an elf with a laugh.

Dearlen comes back into the room, making her way quickly to Dagger and offering her a piece of meat. Before she can take it, Riddle also reappears, entering through a door the party hasn’t seen beyond. He whispers at everyone to be quiet. Moments later, a pair of shifters enter the room, one man carrying the other while he sleeps against his chest, up towards a room on the second floor. Everyone is utterly and respectfully silent through this, and as the man reaches the top of the stairs there are some celebratory kisses across the table. Following the couple from the back room, the Prince of Hearts finally emerges to greet everyone. He approaches the party, speaking to each member individually, apologizing to Chaedi, being generally pleasant with Bright and Lo-Kag, but obviously particularly interested in Riii. As more of a group than previously, they communicate to the Prince that they wish to speak with him, and about several things. Though not as aggressively as with Riddle, Chaedi explains the situation in Sigil, and so he invites them deeper into the inn, through a courtyard, to another room where they can talk.

Meeting with the Prince of Hearts

This room is more bare than the bar, but everyone can crowd in comfortably. He explains himself to them, expecting them to be exasperated with his little realm’s focus on love, but his argument is at least coherent. He feels love is the thing worth living for, and so one must dedicate time to focus on it, or else what’s the point?

The Prince is obviously aware of what is happening with Tiandra, though he doesn’t seem as informed about Sigil and the gods when the party mentions their deaths and the impact it has had on the City of Doors. He explains that the Gloaming Fey have no standing armies, and so they cannot march on Sigil to help. Still, he seems to take the situation seriously, and promises to think on it and consult with the other Gloaming Fey to perhaps send some kind of aid. Lo-Kag also informs him of Anther’s potentially death, but the Prince responds that Anther is a capable agent, and may yet turn up in time.

Moving on, the Prince acknowledges that it’s late, and now is likely not the time to discuss the full extent of their plans. Still, he seeks to understand, broadly, what they might try to do in Senaliesse. Though Vethpeiros is still at the core of their considerations, Lo-Kag and Chaedi both seem to see some value in confronting Tiandra before confronting Vecna. Lo-Kag believes they will benefit from the control Moreth and Riii would get over the Summer Court, while Chaedi thinks such a bold move might be unexpected by Vecna. When asked why he’s interested in overthrowing Tiandra, the Prince of Hearts hints that while the Gloaming Fey do not publicly stand against her, there are those within the Feywild who would like to see the return of a certain king, and wonders if the rumours he has heard are true.

At this, Moreth reveals himself through Riii, to the Prince of Hearts’ delight. The Prince asks Moreth if what he’s heard is true, and Moreth confirms his feelings for Riii before retreating into her, somewhat embarrassed. Despite it’s brevity, the declaration clearly pleases the Prince, who suggests the party get some sleep in preparation for more talks tomorrow, before ushering them out of the room. Riii and Lo-Kag head to bed, while Chaedi tells them she will go for a walk, which Bright will also attend.

Can the party truly trust the Prince of Hearts, or is this part of some archfey plot? Even if it’s not, what kind of help can he offer, if not an army, and what aid might the other Gloaming Fey offer? Will the party stick with their plan to question Vethpeiros and move on, or will they first choose to overthrow the Summer Court and use it in their fight against Vecna, creator of…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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Session 71: Objectifying Faux-Kag
In Which the Party Escapes Sigil

When we last left our heroes, they stood on the roof of Corellon’s Temple in Sigil, fighting off enemies from the Far Realm, which Sigil has somehow come crashing into. A woman the party assumes to be the Lady of Pain floats in the centre of the city, trying to protect it against the onslaught with a magical shield while she changes the shape of Sigil itself. Around them, angels, demons, dragons and more clash with the invaders. And here on the roof, having already fought off a group of bug-like creatures, the party tackles a Phane and Astral Dreadnought, in addition to something far stranger: Lo-Kag’s shed skin…

The Astral Dreadnought, close to death, flails in its fury. Blinded and restricted by Lo-Kag’s webbing, it slams a claw down on the temple’s roof, collapsing part of the damaged structure, and sending Bright and Lo-Kag plummeting down into the temple. They land safely on the temple’s catwalk, and a split second later Lo-Kag’s undead husk folds over and topples into the hole after them, landing heavily on top of Lo-Kag. Lo-Kag’s head-spider shrieks before leaping off the dreadnought and climbing down into the temple.

Back on the roof, Chaedi, still reeling from the dreadnought’s attack, notices the temple roof collapsing, and asks Riii “Was it Corellon?” Riii, distracted, only responds ”Was what Corellon?" Dagger, unbothered by Bright’s absence, screeches and rakes her claws across the Dreadnought’s skin. It thrashes once again against the roof as it begins to snap free of Lo-Kag’s bindings. The phane, finding itself momentarily untargeted, suddenly begins moving strangely, as though in reverse, smoke billowing back towards its body, and floating away as Lo-Kag’s webbing disentangles from it and reliquifies, before launching another volley of magical energy towards Riii and Chaedi.

Back, below, the skin creature wraps tightly around Lo-Kag’s neck and speaks directly into his mind. It is a presence that seems familiar and natural to Lo-Kag. Not like Vecna or the Raven Queen, like something else. “Let me in… Who do you think you are?!" LoKag, unimpressed, responds: “I’m going to pass you like a bad stone." The thing talks back, angry and distressed.

“I am Lo-Kag! I am the one that will kill the Raven Queen! I am Lo-Kag! LET ME BACK IN! I’m not dead. I can’t be dead. I’m not dead yet. I’m still moving. I will kill, I have to kill people. I can’t be dead, I have to be alive! You think I am useless. You did this to us, you split us. I need you! And you need me. We need to kill her! We need to kill them all, eventually. All the useless, threatening, sputtering gods lording over this world. Why won’t you let me help? Why can’t you let me LIVE? I can’t die! Not yet. Not yet! I can’t die before she does! I’m the only one that can do it, the only one! You heard Vecna, you know it’s true! I can do it!”

Lo-Kag responds calmly. “This is not about your revenge. This was never about your revenge."

Still, the thing persists: ”Let me help! Let me do it, let me help!”

As they talk, Lo-Kag finally recognizes it as the thoughts he caught himself thinking as he woke up. The ones that didn’t seem entirely his own. He realizes that ever since he was reanimated after the fight with Vecna, there was a piece of his consciousness that he was not able to reconcile. It existed prior to the Raven Queen taking hold of his form, but only as a natural part of himself. Since that day, however, it twisted inside him, splitting from him like a tree split by lightning. It is familiar because it is him — not a parasite or a passenger, but a part of Lo-Kag disconnected from the body. Lo-Kag tries to push it off, but it clings to him.

On the roof, Riii casts a hex into the Dreadnought’s solitary eye. It thrashes once, then falls still, dead before it hits the roof, causing more debris to fall from the ceiling. Riii rushes to the edge of the hole and, assessing the situation, calling out to Lo-Kag to switch places with him. For a long moment, he doesn’t notice, but then she sees him crouch, ready to be teleported. She opens a portal beneath him, and they swap places. Confused, the skin-creature wraps around Riii’s neck and tightens its grip, screaming after Lo-Kag: “No!”

Despite the situation, anyone watching her can tell Riii is not panicking. Still, Lo-Kag tries to save her: still in his spider form, he climbs back down into the hole, hanging from the ceiling nearby. Steadying himself with his many legs, he reaches out and tries to pull the husk from Riii and throw it from the catwalk. He partially succeeds, getting the husk off the catwalk, but it brings Riii with it, leaving them both dangling from its side, Riii hanging from the husk. Bright, moving too quickly, launches himself forward to catch Riii’s hand, and then finds himself dangling next to Lo-Kag’s skin instead. Still, from this place he can reach out and take Riii’s hand, and after doing so he swings her up to the edge of the platform.

On the roof, Chaedi has also gone to the lip of the hole but, seeing her friends are largely fine, chooses to focus on the remaining enemy on the roof. She peaks to the Phane in Supernal, asking it why it is attacking Sigil, and how Sigil appeared to it. It responds that Sigil appeared in its domain, and it is now the property of the Phane’s strange realm. There will be no peace. As it speaks, it searches the skyline, aware it is outnumbered here. Before Chaedi can ask it much more, it turns back to her. “You have proven difficult prey.” It leaves the battlefield and gallops unsettlingly across the sky, moving at a framerate that is slightly out of sync with the rest of reality. Chaedi watches it go, deciding whether to follow or stay here. Beyond it, out over the city, a group of arcane, winged people chase. beholder. It fires a ray at one of them, causing the person to freeze and fall out of the air.

Below, Lo-Kag’s skin is the first to pull itself back up onto the catwalk, and shouts at Lo-Kag “You need me! USE me!” It leaps at Lo-Kag, attempting to grab him on the ceiling, but Lo-Kag deflects it. It clings momentarily to his hammer, then falls toward the temple floor. As it falls, the motes of purple light filling the air of Corellon’s temple surround it, adhering to it. When it hits the ground, there is a blinding flash of purple light, and the motes are left covering the unmoving, hollow form of Lo-Kag’s doppelganger.

Riii teleports back onto the roof just as Chaedi drops onto the catwalk. She’s frustrated, and Dagger perhaps appears to echo this with a screech.

As Chaedi alights on the catwalk, Lo-Kag pushes himself from the ceiling, striking the thing on the ground like a meteor, and as the motes scatter from it, Lo-Kag sees its form changed into something resembling a massive warhammer, leathery dry sinew twisting around into a handle, and a head in the shape of a skull, translucent skin stretched taut across it. Lo-Kag hears a final phrase repeated: “Use me.” Lo-Kag stands, looks around, and faints dead away, crashing to the ground. His webbing blankets him, and his disembodied head-spider wraps the webbing tightly around his body, warding off anyone standing too close, before burrowing into the web cocoon.

Chaedi alights momentarily afterward, to the sound of screaming. She turns and find four people still on the floor of the temple, in varying levels of distress over what they’ve just seen. Though they trust she and her friends are they to help them, they misunderstand what they’ve just seen, assuming the doppleganger to be just another creature from the Far Realm. She tells them about the temple outside, saying they should leave. One of the frightened worshippers expresses reluctance to leave the temple, says that she is needed to help save the temple from destruction. Chaedi is understanding, but promises the gods will do what they can here and that Corellon would rather her worshippers be safe and able to come back and rebuild. The worshippers is unconvinced, so Chaedi persists, noting that many people have already gone through the portal and she’s likely to find familiar, friendly faces there to come back and rebuild with. One of the priests offers to go with this worshipper, and the other who remains, adding that Corellon certainly approve of a trip to the Feywild. However, the remaining priest decides to stay, to inform anyone who comes to the temple of where the portal is. Chaedi approves of this, but only after Bright assesses the building and points out where the priest would be safest in the event of a collapse. He will spend most of his time in the cellar, listening through the door for any newcomers.

This discussion complete, Chaedi walks over to Lo-Kag’s cocoon and finds it breathing slightly. Deciding it probably wouldn’t hurt, she touches it, and it begins to peel away to reveal a quite normal-looking goliath, healthier than they’ve seen him in a long time. Lo-Kag opens his eyes, standing and looking pleased with his renewed form. Bright and Riii question him about how he is, and he responds he’d like to get a tattoo. While he fills them in on what he thinks happened, the history of himself and the new hammer he now picks up, Chaedi leaves the building, heading back to the courtyard where the portal is to look through. She finds people milling around, lit up by various light sources, but not appearing to be questioned or led anywhere that she can see.

Chaedi reaches out to both Lolth and Melora, asking if leaving Sigil is the right thing to do. Lolth answers her prayer first. “I cannot and will not tell you your exact path. To outconnive Vecna is beyond even me. To fight a perpetual defensive war, one must learn when to flee. But to win a war, one must figure out when to strike.” Then, Melora. “There is a season for all things. Those who would survive the winter must harvest what they can. Make sure you have what you need as you move into times of hardship. And make sure you trust in yourself.”

She sees the battle for Sigil still raging on hundreds of yards away and takes flight, heading into nearby streets to heal those she can and direct them to the portal.

Exiting the building to find Chaedi gone, Riii takes off the ring of the protector and thrusts it at Bright, before planting herself in front of the portal, and telling Bright that he “can go off and be a hero, but she is done,” and ready to leave for the Feywild. He reaches out to Chaedi with the sending stone. At first, he thinks Riii is mad at him, he explains to Chaedi, but when Riii says it’s not him she’s mad at he decides she isn’t mad. Chaedi assures the party she’ll be back momentarily and, just as Lo-Kag is heading off to join her, she returns, and ask with a sigh and a glance at Bright and Lo-Kag if they’re going.

Riii nearly explodes at this delivery, somewhat surprising Chaedi, who insists that they are going, but might have something else to do before then. Riii rolls her eyes, saying they’ve already wasted enough time with their heroics, causing Chaedi to raise an eyebrow but do little else. When she suggests that, if everyone else is ready, they can go through the portal, Riii again snaps at her, reminding everyone that they don’t have much of a plan for when they arrive. Where are they going? How are they going to sneak in and out? Exactly how much are they planning on achieving in Senaliesse? Are they still going to meet with the Prince of Hearts? While the party tries to figure out the details, Bright quietly but confidently suggests he can get them to the Prince of Hearts. He needs some basic information about the geography of the region — something Moreth can easily supply — but otherwise he’s confident he can get them there.

Despite the mystery surrounding this declaration, the party trusts Bright, and doesn’t ask too many questions. When Riii expresses some confusion, he tells her he knows where he’s going the way she must naturally know where North is. She doesn’t naturally know that information, but the lack of explanation doesn’t deter her. As Bright sets off, they turn to follow him, but then Chaedi pauses. It doesn’t feel right to her to leave such an important portal unmarked for those elsewhere in the city. She offers a prayer, which Melora and Lolth grant. In the open space of the little courtyard, a tree begins to grow impossibly fast, a beach plum that glows like sunlight in the dim of Sigil. As the branches reach out and begin to brush the surrounding buildings, they begin to contort, folding back onto themselves, twisting so that, on all sides, the tree takes the shape of a huge Meloran spiral. At the trunk and its branches extend, the multi-coloured moss of a Lolthian clock races up to cover the Bright white branches in thick patches that can be seen across the city. The symbols should be easy for anyone in the city to grasp. Having to be satisfied with this, Chaedi hurries along with the rest of the party.

As they make their way through the city, a thought comes to Lo-Kag: the dragons might believe them now. He asks Bright to bring them to the Temple of Melora, to leave a message for Mr. Mole. Bright changes their course easily, bringing them by the temple. The party enters and asks after the elderly, frail Mr. Mole. The priest expresses a lot of concern for the old man, suggesting he or someone else from the temple should go out ad find him. He said he was going for a walk during the earthquake, and no one has seen him since. Chaedi and Lo-Kag take turns first calming the priest and saying they’ve seen Mr. Mole and he’s fine, and then convincing him that there’s no need to go out and find him, that he’s somewhere safe. One this is done, Lo-Kag spends a minute crafting out a brief message to the silver dragon, giving Bright enough time to dig his feet into the dirt at the temple, and Chaedi time to perk up some of the plants. Riii, more comfortable now that they aren’t going through Senaliesse, waits with something akin to patience.

With their message dropped off, the party continues through the city, until they come to what looks like a dead end. Again, no one questions Bright and, sure enough, after long moments spent look at the wall in front of them, he reaches out and traces a blade around some of the stones, causing a doorway to open up and reveal a long, dark tunnel. The party enters. The place feels like a void, but lights clear extend only so far above and below them, and walls clip off Chaedi’s wings in some places. The air is musty, and Riii senses old magic. Though nothing attacks them, she and Bright suggest again sleeping in the space and so, other than occasional stops for food, and one for Chaedi to use her Iron Vigil ritual, the party keeps moving.

Many, long hours later, there’s a light, and as the party approaches it the air changes, and they find themselves walking across crunchy leaves, out into a small wood. The air is refreshing, the trees huge, and the feeling of being back in the Feywild washes over them once again. They can resist it better than before, but no one is interested in denying its power completely. Dagger takes flight with a screech, and Bright soon follows her up, easily scaling one of the large trees to get a view of the surrounding area. Lo-Kag approaches another tree and touches it with his hands, letting the wood crawl up his fingers and his arms. Chaedi flops onto the ground, grinning in the new weather, and lets the grass around her grow long and consume her. Riii, keeping cool, takes a deep breath of the sweet air, and lets her flames flicker more strongly.

Bright drops easily back to the ground and, after locating Chaedi, announces that he’s spotted an inn down the road. Riii is ready to sleep outside, knowing some of the party prefers that, but Bright and Chaedi insist that she’ll be more comfortable at the inn, and she lets herself be cajoled into going. Bright tells them the sigh has an image of a heart on it, knit back together with rope.

What will the party find in this part of the Feywild? Will Tiandra’s agents have made it this far from Senaliesse? Will the Prince of Hearts truly offer them help and, if so, at what cost? Will Erathis’s death continue to impact them here? What does her death mean for the party’s assumptions about what they must do to defeat Vecna, creator of…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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Session 70: Battle For Sigil
In Which the Party Encounters Faux-Kag

When we last saw our heroes, they had arrived at the temple to Corellon. Riii quickly ordered some of the nearby citizens to help build a fire so she could open the portal to Senaliesse. Lo-Kag, recognizing the temple itself might not make it through the fight, scaled the building and entered the bell tower, drawing the attention of those inside and telling them to go to the statue outside. Bright also headed to the roof, to distract incoming enemies and buy the people below more time to enter the portal. Chaedi alighted on the opposite side of the roof, having led a crowd of those who could not make it into the temple through the city in an effort to save them. It’s from there that she sees Bright fall rapidly to buglike enemies from the Far Realm. She raced to him and kept the peace just long enough for Lo-Kag and Riii to join them, and together – with Bright healed – they successfully fought off the first wave of enemies. In the brief calm that followed, they considered whether to stay and fight or take advantage of the chaos to infiltrate the city. Seeing an Astral Dreadnought approaching the temple, they decided to stay – for now. As the Astral Dreadnought and a Phane landed, Lo-Kag vomited violently and the party watched in horror as he tore his skin from himself and grew new limbs. His head detached itself, growing its own spider legs, and attacked the Dreadnought. The fight began to rage…

With the Dreadnought stuck in Lo-Kag’s magical ring’s clutches, the party has substantial control over the location of the fighting. Still, Bright remains wary, watching their enemies closely, preparing to strike. Lo-Kag is difficult to read – standing still, looking up at the Dreadnought – but his head races over its body, wrapping it in webbing and tearing at it with sharp teeth. Sending a moment of distraction, Dagger circles it, getting into a better position. It spins, trying to swipe at her, but misses and hits the bell tower, further encouraging those below to hurry to safety. Lo-Kag, having moved to help Dagger, leaves himself open to an attack from the Phane, which fires a ray of time-altering magic, aging and weakening him. Riii raises her staff, ready to respond, but freezes when she catches a movement out of the corner of her eye.

Lo-Kag’s skin – his old, shedded skin – is moving. It rises slowly, tentatively, and stands unsteadily next to Lo-Kag, taking in the scene. It flails hollow, leathery arms at Lo-Kag, shrieking in a hoarse voice, “give it back!” Around it, the party senses some magical power – some sort of aura.

Riii collects herself and rushes forward, manoeuvring around the battlefield to loose a blast of fire at the Lo-Kag husk, but it has little effect, mostly diffusing around the ragged edges of its form. Chaedi takes a moment to assess it (religion: 39). She decides they are seeing both sides of the battle that has been raging inside of Lo-Kag: the battle between life and undeath. The spider form fighting alongside them is fully alive, while this piece of him is fully undead. Beyond that, she’s not sure what to expect. It likely has similar capabilities to Lo-Kag, but as what is likely to be a very unique creature it surely holds some surprises for them. With little to tell the party, she channels her prayers towards healing Bright, but something about this triggers a reaction from the undead creature. It stretches its arms out and stings Bright with a toxic lash, even as Chaedi buries both it and the Astral Dreadnought under a psychic mountain of religious guilt. This, at least, gives Bright a moment’s respite to collect himself.

Next to him, websacs bulge and burst across Lo-Kag’s body, releasing a torrent of baby spiders, which enrobe the undead Lo-Kag thing in a blanket of webbing, forcing it to the ground. Meanwhile, his detached head-spider continues crawling across the dreadnought, cocooning it tightly and devouring large strips of its flesh.

The behemoth breaks free of the web, and grasps both Lo-Kag and Bright in its huge crablike claws. Bright quickly wriggles free of its grip, and erupts into a frenzy of stabs and slices, targeting both the Dreadnought and the undead Lo-Kag thing. Behind him, up in the sky, flickers of flame appear around the horizon of Sigil, as winged figures fly and battle above the market area of the city. The sky is filled with demons, fighting back against the Far Realm invaders. As Bright takes a step back after his attack, the Phane targets him and ages him, sinking his eyes further into his skull and whitening his hair. Dagger steps up the frequency and ferocity of her attacks, taking over for him as he tries to recover.

Lying on the ground after Bright’s attack, Lo-Kag’s skin deforms and inflates itself, wrapping around Lo-Kag and dragging him to his knees in some variation on his Weight of Earth attack. Seeing his defenses down, the Astral Dreadnought reaches out to grab him but Lo-Kag manages to drop out of its grasp just as Riii drops another cloud of choking and blinding ash on the battlefield. Still, he is caught in the zone of darkness itself, and finds himself blinded by the smoke. Next to him, the Astral Dreadnought fares worse as Riii’s sparks a fire on some of the webbing covering it, injuring it further.

In the chaos that follows, the party has a moment to observe that the dual holes in Sigil’s ring are obviously smaller now. Though there is still room for more of the enemies from the Far Realm to enter if the Lady of Pain’s red barrier is broken, Sigil’s changes are continuing and might soon enough close the city off from the enemy forces entirely.

Cheered by the sight, Chaedi continues to pray for their enemies’ defeat, and Melora responds by separating the Astral Dreadnought briefly from its connection to the Chained God, weakening its defences. The Phane, however, its own movements free, circles her and Riii and interrupts her prayers with another ray of time-altering magic. Her skin wrinkles, her hair grows lighter and her back curves under the weight of the years. Riii turns her attention to the Phane to defend Chaedi, catching it in a fiery windstorm by Riii and dashing it to the ground, where it is quickly entangled in Lo-Kag’s web along with the other beasts. As she swings the Phane through the air in an arc, she can see the Astral Dreadnought Mister Mole had frozen move towards the Lady of Pain and be overcome by the swarm of gold dragons that has been circling the skies. The largest catches its one remaining claw in its mouth, swinging it violently, while the smaller ones swoop in and harass it. Satisfied the plane’s main lifeline will not be disrupted, Riii turns her attention back to the Phane and commands it to strike the Astral Dreadnought.

Will our heroes manage to survive their fight against their enemies from the Far Realm? Will they defeat Lo-Kag’s husk? What will happen to him if they do? One this wave of enemies is finished, will they decide to finally leave Sigil, or stay to ensure the safety of the city? One thing’s certain: they must eventually make their way to Senaliesse, avoid being found by Tiandra, and locate Vethpeiros in order to seek answers to their questions about the prophecy concerning their gods and Vecna, creator of the…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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Session 69: Lo-Kag's not Locked in Here with You...
In Which the Party Defends Sigil

When we last left our heroes, the party had split up for part of the day. Bright and Riii wandered the city to do some shopping, and ended up getting matching tattoos to symbolize their friendship. Chaedi headed to the temple of Lolth to seek religious guidance and conduct a ritual that would allow the party to return to Sigil at will via teleportation. Lo-Kag headed back to the Boudoir alone, but had a secret conversation with Vecna about how he might kill a god and what one’s death would look. Bright, Lo-Kag, and Riii then grouped up at The Wine and Song, where they spoke with Anther and finalized plans to leave Sigil tonight, planning on making their way first to some other Court, and eventually heading to Senaliesse. They then made their way back to the Boudoir for a partial night’s rest – Chaedi still at the temple – while Riii kept watch. In the middle of the night, all hell broke loose as what should have been an impossible earthquake hit Sigil. In the chaos that followed, as her friends struggled to help injured citizens, Riii found the likely cause. In the temple district, in addition to the temple of Bahamut, only one other temple did not withstand the initial tremors: the temple of Erathis had also fallen. Riii also noticed lights and shapes in the sky, and surmised after a moment that somehow the Far Realm and Sigil are colliding. The race was then on to reach the temple of Corellon, where the party plans to open a portal to Senaliesse, and where Chaedi plans to escort the citizens unable to reach the safety of the temples. As they moved, the grinding of the two halves of Sigil ceased, as a being they can only assume to be the Lady of Pain shot to the middle of Sigil and halted its movement, then produced a barrier around the city. How long it will last, no one knows…

The party finally reaches the temple of Corellon, Chaedi separated from the rest of the group as she continues to help those in the temple district get to the portal.

As the aberrations approach the city streets, Bright climbs to the roof of the temple and pulls out his daggers, seeking to draw their attention and keep them away from the crowds. He succeeds and large, bug-like creatures ignore the surrounding streets in favour of descending on the roof of Corellon’s temple.

On the ground, Riii panics, clinging to Lo-Kag’s arm. Sensing her distress, he turns and speaks to her gently but firmly, telling her that she knows what she’s doing: she can open the gate to Senaliesse and save the people crowding the streets around them. Convinced, Riii begins building a fire beneath the statue of Corellon, commanding those nearby to grab wood for fuel from the nearby collapsed buildings. As they begin piling debris, Riii fires off an eldritch blast, easily lighting it and creating a small but stable portal. On the other side she can see a large, quiet lawn at night. The portal seems to lead right to the lawn in front of the palace.

It’s now Lo-Kag’s turn to scale the building, but he doesn’t join Bright. Instead, he heads to an upper balcony, trying to get the attention of the quietly panicked crowds below. Finding no success, he climbs higher, making his way to the bell tower. There, he finds a large arcane chime. He rings it loudly until he catches the attention of the assembled crowd, and then tells them to get to the portal to Senaliesse, that they will keep the way clear for them for as long as they can. Though at first the assembled group is unconvinced, a cleric soon begins to usher them out the door and towards the temple.

Outside, Chaedi continues to move with the crowd but, sensing through the ring where the portal is, decides to fly to the roof to direct the crowd more easily, both showing them the way to the portal and instructing those who take notice to help those around them make their way quickly and safely. The directions don’t always work, and some members of the crowd are limping and crawling, unsupported. Still, Chaedi has no time to help them further as the first of the Far Realm creatures – the insectoids Bright has drawn towards him – reach the rooftop.

The largest creature, blue and multi-winged, sprays Bright with some blue mist that congeals on him. Its companions swarm Bright like hornets, dropping him in seconds with their razor-sharp limbs. Chaedi rushes to Bright’s side and offers a prayer for peace while she tends to Bright. As she reaches him, the party – the entire city – hears a cacophonous roar, as a silver dragon charges the massive flying cyclopean behemoth circling Sigil and devastates one of its crablike claws with a blast of icy breath.

Still on the ground, having grown the fire sufficiently to allow multiple people to pass through at once, Riii looks at the wall of the temple and decides time is limited. Instead of trying to scale to the roof, she activates her Ring of the Protector and teleports next to Chaedi, into the middle of the fray. Taking in the situation quickly, she jerks her staff and teleports Bright away from his attackers. With another movement she brings down a searing pyroclastic cloud that blinds and scorches the insects that were swarming Bright.

With Riii now the nearest target, the largest insectoid swoops past her, attacking as it flies to the other side of the rooftop. She fires an eldritch blast at the monster, but it whizzes past harmlessly. As it does, the smaller creatures manage to claw their way out of her burning cloud and, despite the smoke in their eyes, seem ready to fight again. Thankfully, Lo-Kag appears from the bell tower, rushing across the roof and dragging a plume of primal flame behind him to envelope the smaller insectoids. While their enemies are distracted, Chaedi moves quickly over to Bright and summons a carpet of spectral spiders, which crawl over top of Bright and knit his wounds together with their webbing. Her work done, she turns her attention to the sky, and can just spot a purple and yellow figure near the guild ward, throwing arcane flames at some of the invaders. Çeirtrœana and a small group of similarly glowing fighters seem to be defending the area.

The small creatures surrounding Lo-Kag lash out at him, to little effect. The largest one swoops past Riii again and, as Dagger flies after it, Bright leaps to his feet and unleashes a barrage of thrown daggers at it, knocking it from the sky as one of the magic blades lands a hit. The beast crashes to the temple roof with a heavy thud, and Dagger begins raking at its strange face. With a moment to spare to take in the fluid situation around them, Riii spots a volley of arrows taking out some of the attackers over in what she judges to be the Lady’s Ward. It seems the Watch HQ has managed enough staff and motivation to protect themselves and their city.

Confident they have no other visitors at the moment, Riii rushes towards the crowd surrounding Lo-Kag and explodes in a burst of flames. She teleports away an instant later, and the resulting cavitation bubble collapses with a snap, blasting away a vital piece of one of the insectoids’ carapaces. She glances down to street level, and is relieved to see that their plan is working — people are making it through to Senaliesse and no one seems (for now at least) to be trying to close the portal.

Watching his enemies burn, Lo-Kag realizes that these creatures are similar to what he has heard dwarven deep miners describe as “Swordwings.” Despite having a name for them, he does not know much else about them, save for what the party has already seen. In any case, with his magical ring activated they’re mostly a problem for him now, and he’s more than able to deal with them. A Swordwing lands a blow on Lo-Kag, but is sprayed by a plume of caustic necrotic fluid by his magical armour.

While Lo-Kag focuses on the small swarm, Bright and Dagger continue to press their attack against the large Crownwing leader, feinting and slashing to keep the enemy at bay, until Bright lands a vicious strike that drives deep into its carapace with a wet crack. Seeing an opening, Riii channels heat into the Crownwing’s exposed wound, boiling its internal organs from the inside. Bright, ready to land another blow, turns to her when the monstrosity collapses limply on the roof, and gives her a curt nod. She tosses her hair, lifting her hand in the same motion, to display the tattoo on the back of her wrist.

After the party finishes off the rest of their attackers, the final carcass hitting the roof with a crunch, Riii urges the party towards the portal, saying that if it closes they’ll be trapped in Sigil. Bright speaks up, and mysteriously says that he can get the party there, not to worry. Chaedi, trusting in him, argues they should stay and continue to fight. As their argument heats up, another loud roar pierces the sky, and an entire squadron of Gold Dragons flies across Sigil, dealing death in the skies. Riii takes this as a demonstration that Sigil is safe: it has many able protectors. This may also be the best chance they have to sneak into Senaliesse: surrounded by others fleeing the chaos they would be well-hidden. Chaedi, taking a moment to examine the bubble surrounding Sigil, trying to decide how long she thinks it will hold, finds darkness appearing along the city’s edges. The matter making up the ring of Sigil appears to be closing over the skies, sealing the city from external threats. She argues they must stay and defend the city until the Lady of Pain can finish her work and seal the city off from the threat that still lies just beyond the force field. Out of the corner of her eye she notices something else: another great behemoth like the one the Silver Dragon was fighting, descending towards the temple, along with one of the shadowy centaurlike creatures she spotted earlier. She affirms that, if nothing else, they must at least deal with those before leaving. Looking to Lo-Kag for support, she is shocked at first to find he seems most sympathetic to Riii. As a new wave of enemies approach, however, he gives in to her argument. At least for now.

As these new creatures descend on them, Chaedi has time to tell the party that the largest is an Astral Dreadnought. Though she knows a significant amount about them (Religion: 37), she only has time to yell that if it eats one of the party members they must kill it quickly. She does not have time to add that this is because inside the creature’s stomach is a demiplane that will wound anyone who enters it for the time they remain there. Chaedi and Riii both also recognize the incorporeal shadow as a Phane, a creature that can manipulate time (Religion: 36).

Before they land, Chaedi manages to get herself behind the large crystal in the centre of the roof, while Lo-Kag remains where he is, his ring still activated. Bright and Dagger move forward to fight as well, while Riii fires off another eldritch blast, then moves towards Chaedi, staying out of range. Within the Dreadnought’s aura, Lo-Kag and Bright find it hard to fight. However, as Chaedi prays and sanctifies the rooftop, they find their aim growing steadier and their bodies and minds more able to take the incoming blows. For a few seconds, the fight rages.

And then something awful happens.

Lo-Kag abruptly vomits black bile. Around him, his friends stop to stare. Looking gravely ill, he raises his head and winks at Chaedi.

“Well, hail Lolth.”

Then, Lo-Kag doubles over, groaning in pain.

His black eyes bulge out of their sockets, before splitting down the middle once and then again, like cells undergoing mitosis.

His eye sockets also divide, forming new bone and moving across his head to make room for the new organs, leaving trails of torn, ragged skin in their wake.

With the sound of an old book’s bindings being torn apart, a gash appears down the middle of Lo-Kag’s lip and chin, before his lower jaw wrenches itself into two parts, folding open to reveal a pair of fanged mandibles, dripping with venom.

He shudders, and his hide armor shakes and bulges violently before four spindly limbs erupt from beneath, out of Lo-Kag’s ribcage. They begin tearing at Lo-Kag’s destroyed skin, almost autonomously, until there is nothing left of the Raven Queen’s corruption but a molted husk on the ground, the unsettling shape of a tattered goliath skinsuit.

His new flesh hardens in the air to a green-black carapace, covered in bristling spines, somewhere between skin and chitin. Moving fluidly, eyes darting hungrily between the prey in front of him, he is undeniably alive, but unlike the driders who first inspired Lo-Kag’s theories on transmuting insectoid forms, nobody except for the most curious and depraved scholar of natural philosophy and entomology would ever call this form, in any sense, “beautiful”.

Luckily, the party is spared from having to see this form in such horrific, high-definition detail for long, as a network of glands and spinnerets open up across Lo-Kag’s body, spraying the air with a fine mist of proteins and enzymes that quickly catalyze in the air, surrounding and obscuring his body with a dense, transparent cloud of floating cobwebs. In its centre, Lo-Kag chitters, almost incomprehensible.

“I am hungry. And I will not be denied.”

There is a moment of confusion on the roof as the party watches this. Another moment follows, where something resembling what the party might consider normalcy threatens to descend. And then additional legs sprout from Lo-Kag’s neck, and the spider that was his head launches itself at the Dreadnought, tearing into its thick flesh. Lo-Kag’s body remains standing, the inside of his neck now ringed with teeth.

Drawing her gaze from Lo-Kag to the Dreadnought he is attacking, Riii rallies and takes careful aim before teleporting the monstrous beast next to the Phane, where she commands it psychically to attack. It reaches out a mighty claw and crushes the insubstantial shadow in its claw, tearing at its wispy form. While it struggles to regain control of what little is left of its own mind, Lo-Kag drags it down and fixes it in place with his ring. The air hangs heavy in the brief stillness on this rooftop in middle of one world crashing into another.

Will our heroes be able to defeat these monsters from the Far Realm? How many will they deal with before they escape, and will Sigil be safe when they do? What awaits them on the other side of the portal? Will they be able to disappear into the city to question Vethpeiros in peace, or will they find themselves face to face with the Summer Queen and her guards? Whatever happens, they must overcome to face Vecna, creator of those…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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Session 68: Things Fall Apart
In Which the Party Encounters the Far Realm

When we last left our heroes, the shardmind Amata had conducted some experiments on Vecna’s chromastone for them. As they did so, the party split up for the sake of efficiency. Bright and Lo-Kag went in search of Naya, the gold dragon acting as the owner of The Chalice, to ask for her aid in fighting Vecna. As with Mr. Mole, the found a reluctant ally, who told them only she would seek out her own information and consider joining their cause. Riii visited Portal Master Hamriel, and gained a list of portals: 2 each for Senaliesse, Kerradunath, Tarvale, and Latherna. Chaedi, though she remained in Amata’s office, spoke with Lolth about the potential impacts of the fall of Kerradunath, and how the drow are reacting to the hostage situation in Senaliesse. Lolth calmed her concerns, but chastised her for not knowing the ways of her followers and instructed her to seek some of them out for answers to her other questions. One back in Amata’s office, party learned that the chromastone is not linked to a person – the lich in disguise they’ve come to call Oleander Locke – but to an object. Further, the chromastone itself may well be able to lead them to this object, given that Amata has uncovered a function that displays coordinates under pure light. This does present some possibilities…

Amata’s Office
The party discusses their options. They could go immediately to Oleander to try to get the phylactery, hoping to use the element of surprise against her. At the same time, because of her encounter with Lo-Kag in the library, she likely knows the party is watching her, and may have traps and guards arranged in case they do try to teleport back to her. Additionally, Riii considers that the lich is likely far more powerful than the party, and thus a danger to tackle even if they were certain she wasn’t prepared. While the party – and Riii especially – are at first concerned about the safety of travelling directly to Senaliesse through one of Sigil’s portals, Bright reminds them that Anther is waiting for them and might be able to get them into the city more safely. Lo-Kag suggests the party might be able to trust the Gloaming Fey, given that the Witch of Fates was partial to them, and likely wouldn’t sabotage them in favour of Tiandra. Riii checks in with Moreth about the relationship between the Summer Court and the Gloaming Fey, but he’s still in a Mood, and only responds that he’d rather not deal with any of the Archfey. The party decides to go speak with Anther, at least, to find out if he is still available to help them, and can stay another day while Chaedi prepares the Succor ritual at the Temple of Lolth.

As they prepare to leave, Chaedi asks Amata one more question about the chromastone: can it be used to teleport more than one person? The shardmind responds yes, if all of the people to be teleported are a small group and are physically touching. The party thanks Amata, then decides to split up before meeting up at The Wine and Song in the evening, though Chaedi will have to be contacted via the sending stone, given how long the ritual takes. She heads to the temple, Lo-Kag tells the others he will go back to Iliacta’s to take some time in seclusion, and Riii and Bright decide to spend the rest of the day in the city’s shops, before talking to Anther.

Lolth’s Temple
Chaedi flies to the temple of Lolth, an 8-sided structure of grey and purple masonry, unique, and yet fitting into Sigil’s eclectic architectural character. The temple is guarded, and fortified with wrought filigree gates in the form of spiderwebs, which sit between the temple’s towers. Hiding her wings beforehand to retake her mortal fey form, Chaedi approaches the guards, and greets them with respect and humility, remembering Lolth’s harsh admonitions. The guards pause only momentarily, before admitting Chaedi to the temple to conduct her ritual. The temple is familiar to Chaedi, reminiscent of Kerradunath in some ways: though less cavernous and less vast in scope, the temple houses a central daïs from which teachings are proclaimed and a corner in which instrumentalists are setting up.

Chaedi searches the temple for an acolyte close to her own age, hoping to ask a fellow initiate how to perform the correct ablutions. Lolth’s initiate, Kaszraj, listens to Chaedi’s (abridged) story of how she came to learn about Lolth and wants to learn more. Over the course of a discussion during which Kaszraj reveals she is a minor clerk in the Clerks’ Ward and a mother, Chaedi picks up some of how to communicate and present herself within the temple. When the conversation dies off and Kaszraj leaves, Chaedi goes in search of a cleric in order to learn how to ask for the blessing she needs for the ritual, and also the history of Lolth and the drow. The young cleric agrees to help Chaedi, and teaches her a ritual and prayer to anoint and bless an object, and tells her briefly of how the drow came to worship Lolth.

There were two factions of elves that lived on the surface. A great war broke out between the two nations, and the losing side were forced from their homes, driven underground. There, they learned to cease fighting, and focus on their own survival in this strange subterranean realm, teaching themselves how to build, farm, and thrive underground. They felt that Corellon had betrayed and abandoned them and, as they delved deeper, they found gods of the underworld. One of those gods, a god of spiders, observed them and, noticing how they used spidersilk without harming the spiders, began to guide and shepherd them. They eventually came to know her as Lolth. As her convenant, as long as the drow remained receptive to her teachings, followed the rules she provided, and respected the spiders and the creatures of the underdark, she would in turn protect them.

Chaedi thanks the cleric for his help, and inquires about performing the ritual. She is shown a place to make her preparations, and welcomed to use the space for her needs. She settles in her corner and gets to work.

Lo-Kag on the Rooftops
Lo-Kag heads towards Iliacta’s, but finds himself compelled to stop on a nearby, secluded, rooftop. He stands on the roof, looking over the city, his toes almost flush with the edge, and empties his mind of everything except a prayer of sorts: he thinks of undeath, half-death, secrets discovered and yet to be discovered, and finally a question: “How can I use my half-death to kill the gods?”

The sound of the city below fades away in his focus, and then Lo-Kag is met with the sensation of a chill seeking to settle into his bones, and a voice says: “How interesting. You are the weapon against the Raven Queen. Have your friends protect you until you can strike into her heart. Your hands, your very fingers, can do what no spear, knife, or bow could.”

Lo-Kag forms a thought — “I need to know how it works. I need to know what about my undeath is anathema to the Raven Queen.”

A long pause while Lo-Kag tries to manifest his thoughts as prayer, and then a response:

“It’s quite simple, really. You lie outside her domain, in a very unexpected way. There’s no more to it than that.” Lo-Kag senses a hint of impatience, and the presence in his mind begins to retreat. As it does, he forms one more desperate question:

“What does it look like when a god dies?”

Vecna lets slip a spectral chuckle, and then the words, almost as a whisper, or a distant shout carried by the wind:

“There is a beautiful light, and then things fall apart.”

The presence fades, and with it the last of the chill in his bones. After a few moments Lo-Kag continues his journey to the Boudoir, where he settles the bill and claims the last of the party’s possessions.

Bright and Riii Magic Friendship Moment(s)
Back on Sigil’s streets, Riii and Bright walk in silence, Riii focused on placating Moreth, who is still deeply wounded by the events of the day. As they walk, she spots a shop with a gaudy, hand-painted sign out of the corner of her eye. The sign reads: “A7 TATTOO PARLOUR,” the words flanked on either side with a set of wooden bull horns.

The building itself has no walls, but instead of series of pillars. Inside, the walls and floor are decorated in black and white, and prominently displayed on one wall is a mirror in a white frame. There are also two chairs: one empty, and one housing a human, his leg up on a stool, his teeth gritted as a half-orc tattoos his leg. Riii steps in and Bright follows her. They are greeted by a hulking minotaur behind a desk covered in books showcasing violent tattoo designs.

“Welcome to the shop,” the minotaur offers in a low terse voice.

Riii pauses excitedly for a second, and then surprises Bright, saying “I’m looking for a tattoo for my friend here.”

Bright frowns. “Riii, we haven’t talked about this.”

Riii attempts to convince Bright, showing him badass wolf designs.

“This one will make you look dangerous.”

“I’m already dangerous.”

Undeterred, Riii gushes about how useful her own magic tattoo has been in an effort to convince him.

“Magic is extra,” the minotaur interjects.

Riii appeals to Bright with the idea that a tattoo is a permanent keepsake of their adventures. Bright and Dagger respond with similar expressions: carefully blank in the face of this onslaught of enthusiasm. Riii adds the tattoo could be a constant reminder of their friendship. Also, they are very cool.

Despite these arguments, Bright remains uncertain, and so Riii continues to point out designs and consider from of the enchantments, flipping through the book until one design in particular – a heart wreathed in fire – makes her stop. She considers it, pleased, and then notices the one on the opposite page: a heart bursting forth from a web of shattered chains.

“You could get this one, which is fitting, considering your past, don’t you think?”

Bright asks what the symbols of the tattoo mean.

Riii tells him that it is the shape of a heart, freed from broken chains. It’s very literal.

The minotaur interjects again: “When I drew that one, I was like ‘whoa, it’s like no one could stop you.’ You know?”

Bright studies it carefully, frowns.

“I guess that is important.”

He is beginning to lean more into the idea. Sensing this, Riii promises to get the tattoo of the heart wreathed in flames, in a matching location, as lasting proof of their friendship. Bright asks if this is common – for friends to get matching tattoos – and, with the minotaur backing her up, Riii tells him it is. Trying to sell him on it further, the minotaur suggests an enchanted tattoo will make him tougher, which he needs “from the looks of it.”

Bright finally agrees, but asks if the minotaur can make an alteration to the design. He agrees, and once the human’s tattoo is done – Bright and Riii discuss placement and decide on the back of the wrist in the meantime – he and his assistant get to work on them. When it’s finished, Riii’s tattoo, a heart wreathed in black flames that reach to her fingertips, flickers red when it catches the light, imitating real flames. Moreth teases her: “Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with me does it?” Riii rolls her eyes at him: “Don’t play coy. What are you – the archfey of not fire?” She’s a bit flustered, but at least Moreth seems calmer.

On Bright’s wrist is a design similar to that in the book, with two significant changes: the chains that surrounded the heart, crisscrossing over its front, are gone, replaced in one place by a broken whip, and in the other by coils of rope, which burst off the heart. Bright is overcome with emotion, and thanks the minotaur with tears in his eyes, offering a generous tip, before turning to embrace Riii. Uncomfortable, and concerned by his tears, she awkwardly pulls back and takes his hand, holding it up so they can bump wrists.

Bright says to Riii, “It means more than I thought it would. This was a good idea.”

“I always have good ideas.”

“No you don’t.”

Riii and Bright spend the rest of the time shopping for reagents for Chaedi’s rituals.

The Wine and Song
Their shopping complete, Bright and Riii head to The Wine and Song, where they meet up with Lo-Kag. They enter together. The place seems like a typical bar: tables are scattered throughout, except in the centre where room has been made for a dance floor. Somewhere across the room, someone tunes a lute. The dancing has yet to commence, but the drinking has, with several patrons sitting at various tables. The party easily spots Anther by his deck of cards and, after Lo-Kag grabs everyone an ale, they sit with him. He addresses them immediately.

“Is this the night when I get to stop wasting time, then?”

Riii explains they will need a but more time, but are at least interested. However, they want to know by which route they will arrive in Senaliesse. After suggesting they couch the discussion in vaguer terms, Anther explains they will not arrive in Senaliesse directly, but in a different court which might grant them an escort to the heart of the Summer Court. Lo-Kag questions further, but Anther tells him the details haven’t been decided yet: given the situation, the party will likely be able to influence the plan once they arrive at their first stop. He also informs them they will be able to sleep reasonably well where they are going, so – despite *Riii*’s continued reluctance, and after Bright is assured by Lo-Kag that the dragons will likely be able to find them after they leave – the party decides they might well leave in the early morning, once Chaedi is done with her ritual. Once the decision is made, Anther stands to leave, collecting his cards. As he steps away, he pauses, and tells Riii he’s relayed the information she wanted him to, and that everything is proceeding as desired. As he speaks, his hand moves, quickly and smoothly sliding a card out from the deck and under Lo-Kag’s mug.

Lo-Kag examines the card, careful to keep it flat on the table and out of sight. The brief message written there tells them to meet him in front of the one brick house on Rumble Drive. Realizing they have nothing else to do, and wanting to get a bit of rest, the party decides to head back to the Boudoir, where they trust the workers not to reveal any personal information about them to anyone snooping around. As they stand to leave, Bright lifts his arm to show Lo-Kag the new tattoo. Riii immediately matches him, and they grin together. Lo-Kag looks at the tattoos, raising his eyebrows.

“Good.”

It’s not enough for Riii, who teasingly suggests his turn is next. *Bright*’s smile fades as he watches Lo-Kag’s response.

“There’s little worth marking here.”

Bright frowns. “What do you mean?”

Lo-Kag holds up his own hand, showing its withered skin drawn tight over his knuckles.

“Vecna sees fit to encrust himself with jewels, but there’s nothing on this shell worth adorning.”

While his words leave Bright in contemplative silence, they leave Riii annoyed at being compared with Vecna. Still, she takes an academic approach, wondering aloud about whether a magic tattoo would work on a warden’s magically shifting skin. She decides a magic one might not work properly, but…

“That’s a bad excuse for not agreeing to have permanent proof of our friendship.”

Lo-Kag suggests he’ll find a taxidermist in the Feywild, prompting Bright to ask what “taxidermist” means. Lo-Kag tells him they decorate dead things. Bright is uncertain about this logic.

“But I don’t think you’re dead…”

“And tattoos can go on dead things,” Riii interjects.

Despite *Riii*’s insistence, Bright tells him he doesn’t have to get a tattoo…

“But it would be nice if we were connected somehow too… We still are. It’s just a drawing, but… It felt important.”

Lo-Kag acknowledges its importance, and promises he will consider it later. Bright doesn’t let it end there.

“You’re my friend and… I’m really happy to know you.”

Lo-Kag stands stoically in the face of this, though the words do touch him. He puts his hand on *Bright*’s shoulder shakes it firmly. He looks at first like he’s going to say something different, but in the end repeats the affirmation that he will consider a tattoo. The he suggests they head to the Boudoir.

On the way out, Riii makes a point of getting the final word for now:

“I don’t think you’re dead or undead. You sigh way too much for someone dead or undead.”

Things Fall Apart (Including the Section Titles)
The party arrives back safely at Iliacta’s. On their way, they pass some guards, who continue to look disinterested but otherwise seem fine. When they enter the building Xarxious is there and gets them a room – after a brief discussion they’ve decided it’s safest to stay together. Riii agrees she will take the only watch that night, and Moreth, over his earlier fit, helps. While they sit and trance, they discuss their misgiving about the upcoming trip to Senaliesse.

At the temple, Chaedi has finished the blessing prayer, and is slowly walking along the wall, softly dragging a stone bracelet decorated with spiders along the wall, imbuing the focus with the building’s divine energy. As she walks, the floor beneath her feat trembles slightly. She pauses, opening her eyes, and turns to the cleric – the only remaining person in the building. He tells her this has happened before, and that it should pass. He seems unconcerned and, seeking to learn from the drow, Chaedi continues her walk. As she does, she asks curiously if this kind of this is common in Sigil. It doesn’t seem like it should have earthquakes. The cleric tells her it isn’t common, but it has happened before. Just once. He calmly tells her to sit down until it passes, so she doesn’t hurt herself.

On the second floor of the Boudoir, Riii is feeling the same trembling. After waiting for a few moments and finding that – rather than passing – the shaking is getting worse, she is struck by the realization that staying the building is about to become very dangerous. Thankfully, as she’s having the thought, Bright and Lo-Kag are woken by the shaking. Lo-Kag recognizes immediately that something is wrong: this feels like an earthquake, but Sigil doesn’t have earth. Riii is coming to her own conclusions: a spell could possible cause the shaking, but it would require a lot power. She orders them to collect their things: they need to leave, now. As they grab their things, the shaking intensifies, making it difficult to stand and causing people down the hall to panic. They opt for the quickest route out: the window.

Using the Ring of Featherfall, Bright lands softly on the ground outside. Lo-Kag follows him quickly, climbing down the shaking wall. Riii, on the other hand, transforms herself into shadow and soars into the air with Dagger. As she rises, she sees a nearby section of the city spewing wood and debris into the air. Above her, on the opposite side of the city, is another line of dust and broken buildings. Sigil has broken in half.

With no time to think, Riii shouts down about a market square nearby that has more open space. The party struggles towards it, Bright briefly collapsing as a window flies out of its frame and knocks him to the ground. As he pauses to help, Lo-Kag spots a group of goblins nearby, lying injured under rubble. He dives towards them, shoving the debris aside and protecting them from further injury as they crawl to safety.

Chaedi focuses on her surroundings, trying to keep her attention on her ritual despite its interruption. She senses the quiet protection the walls offer, strengthened with divinity. As she reaches out to commune with this divinity, the thought strikes her that the relative calm in here is hiding what must be devastation outside. She hops to her feet and grabs her things. Taking a moment to manifest her wings, she flies out the doors, yelling at the guards posted outside to get inside quickly.

“Something has happened!” Her gods speak to her in unison. Quickly, she asks if the temples will stand. If Sigil will stand. They tell her the temples will stand, though their walls are not impenetrable. They have no control over Sigil. Running towards a nearby crowd, she screams at them to get to the temples, and spread the word so others do as well. As she does, she asks another question: What has happened?

“Someone has died.”

For now, this is all she needs, and she focuses on the sight before her: a partially toppled building and a man beneath it, bleeding out. Above her, impossible to ignore, the sky has been invaded by red and blue lights, unnatural and difficult to focus on. Without much time to think, Chaedi offers a quick prayer to save the man, buying those around him time to lift the debris and pull him out. As she moves, Bright’s voice comes through the sending stone, telling Chaedi she needs to come to them. Unable to turn away from the people in front of her, Chaedi tells him to let her know when she must arrive, and she will teleport to Riii. Ignoring the colours in the sky for now, she heads to the next wounded person.

In the air, Riii already suspects the death of a god. From her height, she can see the temple district. Concerned for Corellon, she scans the skyline, and is unsurprised to find the tower of the temple to Bahamut has cracked, its top floors collapsed. She spots the neat graveyard and imposing walls of the Raven Queen’s temple. Moradin is safe as well and—

She spots it.

Erathis. The temple to the goddess of civilization is caved in on one side.

And above it: lights, and specs – things too small to make out, too far away for now – diving towards the city from all angles.

As she fumbles in her bag and puts on the Ring of the Protector, Moreth wreaths her shadow form in fire to further protect her. Immediately, she can sense Chaedi is safe, but grim and determined to deal with some task. For her part, Chaedi senses *Riii*’s alarm and concern.

There is a cracking sound. A wave hits the party, bypassing their bodies in favour of their minds. As one, the people of Sigil scream. Lo-Kag lifts his hammer and swings it at Bright, hitting him squarely in the chest.

In moments after, Lo-Kag recovers. Around him, bodies lie still in the continuing tumult. Not everyone has been so lucky. He thinks quickly, his mind turning to the spelljammer the party once encountered. He pulls out his map: perhaps there is a port in Sigil where they can get off the ground, get away from the pandemonium. Riii lands next to him, her own plan already formed: they should find Anther and take the portal he has suggested to them. Lo-Kag looks at the map, then looks up at the giant rift in Sigil above them.

“That’s our meeting place. That’s where Anther is. Anther is fucked."

Next to them, *Bright*’s quiet, sharp voice asks about the list of temples Riii acquired from Portal Master Hamriel. She recalls that there is a portal to Kerradunath, sitting right on the edge of the destroyed Lower Ward, as well as a gate to Senaliesse near Corellon’s Temple in the Temple District. It’s away from the destruction, but will drop them right in the middle of Senaliesse, in the heart of Tiandra’s domain.

The head to the Temple of Corellon, Bright telling Chaedi to meet them there.

As they move, Riii looks to the Astral Sea again, bracing for another psychic assault. She realizes that the sound was created by the Far Realm tearing a hole in space itself, and enveloping Sigil. At the very least, the wave will probably not happen again. Still, the floating specks are getting closer, descending on the city. Their shapes become clearer: horrible aberrations, flying arthropodal creatures, huge clots of mutating flesh, centaur-like entities made of shadow, and a massive red cyclopean beginning to fill the entire sky with its bulk.

Back at the Temple District, Chaedi moves towards the Temple of Corellon, helping who she can, as she goes. She reaches out again to her gods, and asks if other planes have been as badly affected. Melora responds that it is worst here. Deciding this means anywhere is safer than here, Chaedi begins directing people towards the portal to Senaliesse, hoping to get as many refugees through the gate as they can.

Riii looks to the skies again, and spots one of the specks moving differently from the others, and glowing brightly even against the shifting, impossible colours of the Far Realm. The figure stops in the middle of Sigil. Riii recognizes the form of a thin woman, wearing ridged and spiked armour: the Lady of Pain. She projects an awesome power, grasping the broken segments of Sigil and pulling them back into stability with a shriek of effort, and anger, and pain. As she does, a protective bubble forms around the city, and Riii sees crowds of the strange creatures press up against the bubble, unable to get in. Others, however, slip through just before the bubble closes, and those are still headed to the city.

The party reaches the Temple of Corellon just in time to see the first of the alien invaders make landfall.

Will the portal at Corellon’s Temple work as intended? If it does, will our heroes travel through immediately, or stay to fight in Sigil? If they do go through, what awaits them on the other side? A quiet nighttime square in Senaliesse? Or more beings from the Far Realm? Whatever happens, things certainly just got much more difficult in our heroes fight to defeat Vecna, creator of the…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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Session 67: Chromastone Experiments
In Which the Party Scrys on a Lich

When we last left our heroes, they had spoken with Mr. Mole the silver dragon about joining their cause, and found that they might have an ally in him if they can convince him they have a plan with a reasonable chance of success. On their way back to the Guild of Sages, the conversation in the carriage turned to how to tackle Tiandra, and Moreth’s relationship with her. In the end, they decided to tackle Tiandra later, though Riii was thankful for the party’s interest. Back at the Guild, they headed to Çeirtrœana’s office, where the Angel of Corellon provided them with a summary of her findings about Vecna and possible ways of defeating him. Once again, the conversation veered towards the archfey, leading Çeirtrœana to reveal that rumours about Moreth spread after he left: he died in a hunting accident, or he left Tiandra to begin his own court. This causes Moreth to rage within Riii, and as soon as the outburst is over Chaedi guides the party into the hallway, largely in case another one is on its way. Though the information is useful, it also creates a rift between Riii and Moreth, when the former asks if the rumour about him leaving might have reached Tiandra before she killed him. Hurt that she would think such a thing possible, Moreth fumes, but this time more quietly, while the party decides what to do next…

Guild of Sages

Realizing they have only 15 minutes before they must speak to Amata, the party decides to head to the shardmind’s office early rather than start any other task.

The inside of their office is busier than when Chaedi and Lo-Kag last saw it. Amata has set out numerous small instruments on their desk, and considered what experiments might be safe enough to conduct. After Chaedi explains all of the experimentation they’ve done with the chromastones so far, and describes the information in Billings’ notebooks, Amata suggests that experimenting with a single stone is unlikely to trigger any accidental teleportation. They know there is a risk, but they are willing to take it.

They are also interested in reproducing some of the experiments the party has conducted so far. Lo-Kag demonstrates one by rolling the white stone Vecna created on the desk, causing an image to flicker as it has in past. Amata, intrigued, picks up the stone and examines it more closely, staring into it. After trying a few angles, they stop.

“I have found the correct angle. The picture is quite steady.”

They lower the stone and, though Chaedi eagerly reaches out to try looking through it herself, they inform her she will need to wait a full minute for them to ensure there have been no negative side effects from the experiment. The party waits.

After the minute passes, Chaedi takes the stone and looks through it. She sees the same woman Lo-Kag saw in the long files: black hair, and rich-looking, though she substitutes red, black, and white for the usually garish colours of the Gloomwrought upper class. She’s in a workspace of some sort – a desk and bookshelves stand behind her, holding what look to be ledgers. The woman herself is holding heavy-looking scrolls rolled up on large handles. She’s handing them to someone just out of the frame, someone with pale hands and black sleeves. Although the woman is smiling, Chaedi can see a commanding presence beneath it: the woman has a noble background, but there’s something additional in her bearing, something practiced. At the same time, there are nerves. She’s aware of the possibility she’s being watched. As Chaedi studies her, she glances at the woman’s fingers, and just for a moment can discern something wrong with them: those are the fingers of a lich. She hands the stone to Riii to get her impression, knowing she’ll be able to see through any illusion. As she does, she asks Amata if the image is live. Amata says this is likely the case.

Riii looks through the stone and immediately sees through the illusion. She announces to the room that they are, in fact, dealing with a very old, decaying lich. Lo-Kag notes that the magic she used on him in the tower was cold, so he isn’t surprised. Unfortunately, Riii can’t remember reading anything about a lich like this (History: 24).

Considering that a stone with teleportation abilities should “know” something about the location it will be teleporting the user to, Chaedi asks Amata if the stone could help them locate the lich – who they believe is likely Oleander Locke. Amata, who seems interested in the stone but less so in why the party needs it, replies that it’s possible, but further experimentation would be needed. Running a couple of experiments would take about an hour.

There’s a brief discussion. The party generally agrees learning more about the stone may be useful, but Chaedi is concerned about the possibility of the stone teleporting Amata. Given that the Ring of the Protector doesn’t work across planes, she worries something awful might happen to the shardmind and they wouldn’t be able to escape. Lo-Kag also notes Latherna is a place of interest in the Shadowfell, and it might be useful to investigate what – if anything – is happening there. Although they toy with the idea of returning to the Shadowfell, either to Gloomwrought or the House of Black Lanterns, this seems like a lot of time and risk for an experiment that may not reveal much, and is unlikely to be dangerous. Ultimately, they decide not to travel to the Shadowfell, but this discussion takes them to the topic of where to head next, and how they might get there. Amata informs them that there is a list of doors and information about how to use them, but the party will need to talk to Portal Master Hamriel to learn more. Riii also notes they could learn the True Portal ritual to be able to travel more easily and on their own terms. Finally, Chaedi offers to perform the Succor ritual at the Sigil’s temple to Lolth, which will allow the party to return to Sigil immediately if needed.

Given *Chaedi*’s concern with Amata’s safety, she decides to stay with the shardmind while they conduct their experiments. Lo-Kag and Bright head off to find the gold dragon in charge of The Chalice, and Riii collects a brief list of locations the party would like to be able to travel to before she meets with Hamriel. Before they leave, Lo-Kag asks Amata if the stone could be used to force the lich to teleport to the party, instead of the other way around. Amata says this might be possible but would be extremely complicated – like making the rain fall up.

The Chalice

On the way to The Chalice, taking yet another one of the city’s carriages, Lo-Kag considers what he’s heard about gold dragons (Nature: 40). He knows their breath is fire, and that they often make their lairs on open plains or hills. However, they are more concerned with protecting magical secrets or influencing societies than they are the particulars of their location. They tend towards honesty and leadership, believing in honour and the greater good, but can also be arrogant and dismissive, as they don’t understand the fragility of lesser creatures, and therefore cannot always comprehend how bad a situation is from someone else’s perspective. They are comfortable hunters, often preferring large prey, and sometimes hunt down monsters for ethical reasons. They also, of course, are capable of giving themselves a humanoid appearance.

With all of this in mind, he suggests to Bright that, though this dragon may behave like Mr. Mole in some ways, she is unlikely to tolerate “bullshit”. Bright is somewhat relieved: they’re still facing a dragon, but at least it’s one they can be direct with.

They arrive and enter the bar. As it’s still early, the place is largely deserted, save for a group of five people on stools, grouped up and speaking with the bartender. They turn when Bright and Lo-Kag enter and, though they don’t seem worried as such, finish up their conversation quickly, put on their flat red caps, and leave the building, leaving Bright and Lo-Kag with Naya the bartender. Lo-Kag surmises that the group didn’t want their discussion overheard, but doesn’t sense anything more nefarious than that.

Naya is clearly preparing for the day, prepping glasses for when the place grows busier. Lo-Kag sits at the bar and Bright follows suit, causing Naya to look up at them. Lo-Kag gives her his best smile, and she nods back at him, asking for their orders. Lo-Kag orders a dark ale and Bright, after a moment to figure out he needs to say something too, politely orders the same. Naya remembers him being polite.

As she gets their drinks ready, Lo-Kag asks if she’s the owner. She answers in the affirmative: she’s been running The Chalice for decades. Having confirmed her identity, Lo-Kag says he needs to ask her a stupid question, to which she responds he can but she’s gotten quite good at throwing people out of the bar. As she speaks, Lo-Kag can smell a forge, very lightly, on the air. He dives right into the meat of the discussion, and tells her Master Dok has said she’s a dragon, and if that’s true then he has news for her.

She’s not amused, and asks why he might believe such a thing. He tells her they’ve already met Mr. Mole, and suggests she has also come to Sigil to retire. When she turns back to her work, Lo-Kag can tell that she has something against Mr. Mole. Not getting much of a response from her, Lo-Kag changes tack and guesses that maybe she’s come to Sigil not to retire, but to acquire information through her patrons. She maintains an air of disinterest, and takes her time finishing with the glass she’s cleaning before she bluntly asks what message he’s here to pass on. Again, he’s direct, and tells her Vecna has murdered Bahamut and the party intends to stop him. After another pause, Naya walks out from behind the bar, locks the door, and comes back to stand near Bright and Lo-Kag. Although Lo-Kag is quick to apologize for shocking her if this is the first she’s heard of the news, Naya presses him on why he’s here delivering it to her. Bright tells her it’s because they need help to stop Vecna, and Lo-Kag expounds this, explaining how the party will need an army and leaders to direct it.

Again, she’s not convinced, and suggests that the point is moot given Bahamut is already dead. Lo-Kag persists: Vecna is getting better at killing gods, and at spreading his influence. It’s only a matter of time before he reaches Sigil. The conversation takes a turn similar to the one with Mr. Mole: Naya wonders about the plan, and why she personally should get involved. She suggests Lo-Kag is being dramatic because of his short lifespan. While Lo-Kag argues back, telling her he can’t give her a single, coherent reason because the truth lies in everything they’ve been seeing for months, she checks the utensils and glasses she has out, making sure they’re clean. Once he’s done, she tells him his argument is a bad one, that these things happen all the time if you live long enough, though she does allow that a god dying is an uncommon event. He tries to convince her with references to the gods’ artifacts, and how Vecna’s power might grow with them. She tells him she’ll check in with her own sources about whether or not all of this is true, and make her own decision. Lo-Kag accepts this, but adds that he suspects she’s in Sigil to help, and that if the party can come up with a reasonable plan it would be good to know they had a dragon on their side.

Suddenly, Lo-Kag is seized by something he hasn’t felt in a while: fear. His body, whatever the Raven Queen did to it, seizes up as Naya turns to him with a lazy, predatory glare. He backs away, stumbling off the stool and then to the floor, where he turns and shoves himself back further, putting more distance between himself and the dragon. Bright, not the primary target of the fear attack, follows him nimbly, both to escape Naya and to put himself between her and Lo-Kag. He crouches on the ground between them, ready to attack if he needs to. Behind him, Lo-Kag quietly composes himself, and lets a bit of awe seep into his voice: “There it is. Gods what I wouldn’t give to see that turned against the right people.”

Naya smirks in response, and reiterates that she’ll think about what he’s said. Beyond that, Lo-Kag doesn’t remember the end of the conversation, and the next thing he knows he’s outside with Bright holding his arm and asking if he’s alright. Lo-Kag has managed to shake off the worst of the fear, and assumes the attack was a friendly warning. The meeting, he thinks, could have only gone worse if they’d been less forthright. He tells Bright there are things in this world not to be fucked with, and Naya is one of them. Bright agrees, but: so are Vecna and Tiandra.

Portal Master Hamriel’s Office

Back at the Guild of Sages, Riii wanders the halls in the direction Amata indicated until she finds a plaque on a door that reads “Hamriel the Arcanist Portal Master.”

She knocks and lets herself in before the man inside can finish telling her to come in. It’s rude, but she finds she can’t waltz into the office as easily as she might have thought: she’s caged off from the room beyond, stuck in a small square, five feet by five feet. She can see that the room is more spacious than the other offices she’s been in. There are bars on the windows, but each with little doors in them so the plants on the ledges can be easily watered. Lining the walls otherwise are filing cabinets and cubby holes containing scrolls, as well as poster boards holding maps, notes, and diagrams. In the centre of the room are two desks, only one of which is occupied, and this by an old elf with long hair and a large bald spot. He raises his glasses, perching them on his forehead, and peers at Riii distastefully. Before he can speak, she addresses him, asking if he’s the portal master. He confirms he is and, as both of them appear to be impatient, she quickly tells him she wants a list of “all of the portals in Sigil and how to access them”. This causes him to laugh. He tells her he will only provide this list once she brings the chests and people required to carry them. Taking his point, she instead suggests she’ll give him a list of places, and he can provide a list of portals near them. During the conversation that follows, it’s clear that though Master Hamriel has a lot of work on his plate he’s also a tough critique when it comes to assistants being sent to him. He also explains to Riii that his job is documenting portals, not granting permission for their use, as he’s not a member of the government. Riii, sensing his growing frustration, tells him she’ll go ask the people who work in Customs, if he thinks they’ll be able to help her.

The offer works, cutting through some of the tension. He asks if she needs the list for something important, and she flippantly tells him it’s about the fate of the universe, effectively communicating to him with a look through her ruby eye that though she’s not a bad person she is a powerful person, and she has things to do. He asks her for the list, and she tells him they’re looking for portals leading from Sigil to four other places: Latherna, Senaliesse, Tarvale, and Kerradunath. He considers these locations and the portals nearby. He suggests many portals near Tarvale might be dangerous. Riii says she doesn’t necessarily mind the danger, and they spend some time deciding how to narrow down the portals that would be useful to her, with Hamriel ultimately telling her he’ll give her something she can “work with”. He has a brief moment of confusion regarding Kerradunath, and needs Riii to remind him it’s in the Feydark. The portals around there aren’t often used, but he’ll see what he can do. He tells her to return in thirty minutes, which is as much time as he’s willing to dedicate to this task. She blows him a kiss and skips out the door.

Thirty minutes later, she knocks and lets herself in again. He stands – taller than she expected – and brings her a few sheets of paper, passing them through the bars. She glances at the list and discerns he’s given her information about two portals per destination requested, each with carefully detailed instructions for use. In each case, the portals are either usable at will or function frequently, and for each location there is at least one two-way portal. She thanks him, but he’s already back working at his desk, and only raises a hand at her before she leaves.

Amata’s Office (Chaedi’s Head)

Chaedi remains with Amata after the others leave, while the shardmind examines the crystal with a series of arcane and scientific instruments and tests, look at it under magnification, subjecting it to heating and cooling stresses, and other devices which seem to measure and charge it with energies.

Amata works in silence for the most part, but nonetheless, Chaedi warns them that she has to “talk with someone,” before reaching out to communicate with Lolth.

After establishing a connection with Lolth, Chaedi asks — “Earlier, when we were speaking with Çeirtroeana, we had a discussion about how gods are weakened when their domains are weakened. I have questions about you and Corellon.”

“Speak them.”

“You told me that the Drow will take care of things themselves with the Summer Court, that I don’t need to concern myself with it. But I am concerned about what the fall of Kerradunath will do to you.”

“The fall of Kerradunath is not a foregone conclusion.”

“I agree, and I know the Drow are strong, but Vecna has always been steps ahead of us. One of the issues at the core of this is, are the issues between Senaliesse and Kerradunath caused by Vecna? Will he be able to use these events to bring harm to you or Corellon?”

“You overcomplicate yourself. You should phrase your questions in a way that invites an answer.”

Chaedi takes a breath and thinks.

“If the situation between Kerradunath and the Sumnmer Court led to a considerable loss of Drow life, would that impact you in a way that Vecna could take advantage of?”

Lolth takes her own moment to pause before she responds.

“Such a thing would do me some harm, yes.”

“I know the Drow are strong, and I know they know the terrain well, but if the Summer Court or its allies were to attack Kerradunath, could the Drow hold them off?”

“There would undeniably be loss of life. But my people live deep beneath the earth, and we are nothing if not survivors. I have given them nothing if not the ability to survive when hope seems lost. They will hide themselves and retreat. We would make it a slow and costly war for them, one not worth pursuing.”

“Do you know how Kerradunath will respond to what Tiandra has done?”

“They consider it even now. A course of action between prudence and honour. My people are used to sacrificing honour in favour of prudence. They are used to doing what they must. There will be no armies rising from the depths, though there may be assassins sent, but that will come later on, once memories of what has happened today begin to fade.”

Chaedi sighs, relieved.

“I hoped as much. We have a reason to go to Senalliesse sooner or later. If it seems prudent, I’d like to save the people there.”

“Perhaps you could do even more than that. Perhaps you could save their hope.”

“Yes. I would love to do that.”

“If that is the case, then know this: You can find the chance, you can offer the opportunity, but the words, when they come, the promises of better things and the words of hope, they will not flow from your lips, but from someone else’s.”

After a pause, Chaedi asks one more question of Lolth: “I understand that the Fey are connected to Corellon, but the Drow are connected to you. I understand the gods don’t control every aspect of the lives of their followers, or even the larger details, but I’m curious, how could such a thing happen?”

“What you ask is a story that every Drow knows. The next time you see one of my people, ask politely. It would be best to hear it from their lips.”

“I will. Thank you.”

In the moments that follow, Chaedi considers the party’s next moves, and how she might use her time waiting for Amata to prepare. Knowing she will need a powerful focus for the Succor ritual, she reaches out to the Spider Queen for a small boon — “I have this bracelet, and I was hoping you could bless it. I want to use it to perform a ritual at your temple here.”

Lolth sighs.

“There is so much that you do not know. There is a time-honoured, respected way to ask for these blessings. Go to the temple and ask them to teach you these words. Ask them with humility.”

Chaedi apologizes, somewhat chastened.

“Apologize by recognizing your failures. Work harder to succeed.”

Chaedi swallows, still thrown off by this new relationship and the expectations that come with it.

“Yes,” is all she can manage, and all she thinks Lolth cares to hear.

Amata’s Office

After a time, the party returns to the guildhall. Amata announces to the group that they have discovered two interesting properties of the crystal. To demonstrate the first property, they place the crystal on a focusing apparatus, and shine a Bright white light through it. Projected through the crystal, the word SHADOWFELL shimmers in Common against the desk.

“This appears to be a method of locating the target of the scrying spell. I hypothesize that, were you on the correct plane, this may display more detailed information about the location there.”

Lo-Kag asks "Were you able to discover how old it is? Who made it?

“This was made only a few centuries ago. Determining the identity of the creator would take more time.”

Amata removes the crystal from the apparatus and warns the group that this function can only be activated with “pure white light,” including radiant light. Demonstrating the second discovered property, they retrieve a small metal cube from the desk and gently tap the crystal against it, causing a large spark to arc through the air from the crystal. “This appears to be a cantrip that has no practical purpose.”

Lo-Kag asks Amata what material the cube was and, finding it was steel, taps his hammer against the crystal, causing a similar effect. He asks Amata if the energy is composed of lightning.

Riii realizes (Arcana: 37) that the effect is a simple wizard cantrip — a specific application of Prestidigitation, designed entirely to bedazzle — a parlour trick, but it seems inscrutable why such a powerful artifact would contain such a meaningless enchantment in addition to its other functions. Lo-Kag suggests that it could be the creator’s idea of a joke.

Riii turns to Chaedi and asks if this rings any bells from Vecna’s manuscripts? Why did he experiment with this?

Thinking about Vecna’s working process, Chaedi recalls something about Vecna’s theories on modifying the properties of an artifact like a Chromastone, and then she realizes that imbuing the artifact with a simple, meaningless cantrip was the easiest way for Vecna to test his theory — that it could be possible to bind a new enchantment to a powerful artifact. Ultimately, a successful test. She communicates this to the group.

Riii wonders why Vecna would create an artifact to spy on one of his own servants, though Lo-Kag thinks it makes perfect sense. Before he can say more, Amata responds that the crystal seems to have been designed not to scry upon an individual, but rather an object. Chaedi and Riii both react with a start — could it be attuned to the location of Vecna’s phylactery, held by “Oleander” for safekeeping? Lo-Kag is uncertain: they’ve been mislead by Vecna before.

What will our party’s next more be? Çeirtrœana has suggested to them that they should attack Vecna from as many angles as possible, and some plan is beginning to take shape with dragons agreeing to side with them and Riii acquiring the list of portals. Where will they head first? To Latherna, to investigate what is happening in the Raven Queen’s seat of power? To Tarvale, where Vax Vith’s remains are said to have caused the sand to turn black centuries ago? Or to Senaliesse, where the danger of Tiandra but also the promise of Vethpeiros await them? Might they even go to Kerradunath, to discuss matters with their drow allies? Whatever the next step, they are finally starting on the path to defeating Vecna, creator of…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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Session 66: Deicide Cram Session
In Which the Party Attends a PowerPoint Presentation

When we last left our heroes, Chaedi had spent the morning running to Albrecht’s to learn more about, while Bright and Riii had awakened at the Boudoir and shared breakfast. Lo-Kag had spent the night in fitful sleep on a library bench, and received a visit from Vecna, only to be awoken when Bright and Riii arrived. Together, they went to ask Çeirtrœana to speak to an aberration expert, and then angel led them to Master Dok, who told them about two dragons in the city who might be able to answer their questions: a gold dragon at The Chalice, and a silver dragon at the temple to Melora. They were prepared to go speak with one of them when Chaedi arrived at the Guild of Sages, but not before a brief but intense discussion with Riii about where the party’s loyalties lies – which is with Riii, but not with Moreth and his cause. That topic put to rest for the time, the party headed to the temple of Melora, where Chaedi was fairly certain she knew the identity of the silver dragon: Mr. Mole. She convinced him to travel back to Boudoir with the party where, though he resisted at first, he essentially revealed his true nature to the party, though he didn’t prove eager to help them. After some convincing, he answered some questions, and has just finished telling them about how Vecna supposedly defeated Vax Vith millennia ago…

Finishing with Mr. Mole

The party takes in Mr. Mole’s tale in solemn silence. Chaedi realizes that the remarkable black sand desert where Vax Vith was killed is possibly a place already known to her (Nature 35, Dungeoneering 30), an unnatural geological formation for a desert.

Lo-Kag asks the ancient dragon if Vecna’s rise to power, from killing an unloved, unprotected god like Vax Vith to killing Bahamut, with his thousands of devout followers, is not a grave enough threat to take up arms once again. Mr. Mole challenges the party’s ability to accomplish their mission. What is their plan? Who are their allies? Have they picked their battlegrounds? A stronghold to lay siege to? Lo-Kag informs him of three possible battlegrounds. First is Gloomwrought, Vecna’s current seat of power. Second is Latherna, the Raven Queen’s seat of power, where souls go to be sorted, and which Vecna is likely trying to make his own as part of his war against the Raven Queen. Finally, there is Senaliesse, where the Summer Queen Tiandra rules. Lo-Kag explains that, though the latter is not allied with Vecna, she presents a threat to the party, and therefore to their cause. Mr. Mole asks sarcastically if he is expected to attend all three battlefields at once or in the order of his choosing. Riii argues that he should help them regardless of their lack of plan, because their cause is just. However, the wyrm will not commit himself unless they can prove themselves competent planners and leaders. He tells them to return to him when they can convince him that they can organize an effective campaign against Vecna. As a final question, Chaedi asks if Sigil is likely to have a door to Latherna. He tells her he’s certain it does somewhere, but offers no further advice and she asks no more questions.

Exasperated, Riii thanks Mr. Mole for his information, and Chaedi arranges his transportation back to the temple of Melora. Before he gets in his carriage, Lo-Kag respectful comments he hopes to see his fury someday. Mr. Mole, now every bit the calm, slightly odd old man who entered the building, responds he doesn’t even remember the last time he was angry, and then boards the carriage. The party hails a separate carriage and heads to the Guildhall of Sages to meet with Çeirtrœana and Amata.

Carriage Ride to the Guild of Sages

During the carriage ride, the discussion shifts from dragons to the archfey, as Riii suggests that they might not need to conduct a war against Tiandra if they can deal with her as an individual.Lo-Kag asks if Moreth thinks that the four of them could hope to pose a threat to Tiandra — none of them wish to wage another full-scale war in the Feywild, Riii least of all. Moreth launches into a tirade in Riii’s mind: They have to exploit her weaknesses, does Lo-Kag expect that this will be some straigtforward gladatorial combat? What a stupid question. Riii points out that Tiandra managed to kill him without an army, so they might be able to do the same to her. Moreth responds that might be the case, but he would need to know the specific plan in order to judge its chance of success. Riii communicates this to the party.

Lo-Kag rephrases, and asks if they could take away Tiandra’s power by bringing her somewhere inhospitable to a Summer Fey, like Vax Vith was defeated by having its night sky taken away. This plan is more to Moreth’s liking, to use the Dagger of Everlasting Frost and Tiandra’s true name to neutralize her, in the same way that she defeated him. But she is still well-protected, and they will need a way to get to her. Lo-Kag suggests one of the doors in Sigil might bring them closer than expected.

Chaedi asks Riii if Moreth remembers what happened in Senaliesse after Tiandra betrayed him. Was there rioting in the streets? Did anyone care? Moreth remembers nothing: his consciousness drifted away after he was killed. Recognizing that no archfey has ever been over-thrown, and no new archfey has ever been created, Chaedi asks if anything similar has ever happened. Attempted coups, perhaps? Or, was there a time before Moreth and Tiandra ruled together? How did that come about? Moreth responds that, while the archfey might come into conflict regularly, they never go so far as to openly try to overthrow one another. As for his relationship with Tiandra, they were created for each other. They have always been together. Chaedi comments on the strangeness of this development: an eternal relationship that suddenly ends in murder, only for little in the Summer Court to actually change.

Riii questions if their taking the Summer Court will work, if the people will accept him as ruler. Moreth is having none of it — he is the rightful king! And any of the subjects of the Summer Court would be overjoyed to have him back, and his queen Riii as well, for that matter! She remains concerned that Moreth in his current form – in Riii’s body – might not be accept, but he is confident they will be accepted.

Riii cuts the conversation short as the carriage arrives. Though she appreciates the party’s interest, they still have Vecna to deal with before they take on Tiandra.

An Angelic PowerPoint

The party arrives at Çeirtrœana’s office. The door, still slightly ajar, reveal a steady purple glow, which Chaedi and Lo-Kag would know has replaced an earlier pulsing. They know, and Çeirtrœana opens the door. Her robes look recently pressed, and though the office is still full of papers and books there is an order to the space. She seems less flustered, and has arranged four chairs in front of an easel with a large scroll over it. It is mostly empty, except for the title at the top: “VECNA”. The party takes their seats, and the presentation begins, Çeirtrœana using her arcane powers to add purple notes to the page as she goes.

Weaknesses (Phylactery, Secrets, Undeath, Human)
She begins by discussion Vecna’s potential weaknesses. The first, most obvious, is Vecna’s phylactery, which he has likely taken measures to hide and protect. However, Çeirtrœana suggests that, given its particular connection to Vecna and its form, it may be his biggest weakness and its destruction may deliver a particularly strong blow to him. A second weakness might be his link to secrets. Because they are part of his domain, revealing secrets may shrink his domain and therefore his power, especially if the truths in question are connected to him. However, the party must be careful to spread the truth in order to have the intended effect. This strategy is likely difficult for Vecna to combat because it requires preemptively lying and hoping the lies are accepted as truth.

The third weakness, also connected to Vecna’s domain, is undeath. This is the weakness he seems to have defended against the most and has the most understanding of. Lo-Kag asks if radiance might be used to combat him in this case, given that undead are weak against it. Çeirtrœana responds that this is possible, but might be tricky: since Vecna is divine, divine radiance may not work as intended against him. Beyond that, he is likely prepared for any plots that rely heavily on radiant power, from any power source, even those that are not divine. A second issue regarding undeath is that, while life and death are opposing forces, undeath lies between them. There are common practices against undeath because the gods generally view it as a perversion, but it has no clear opposite power that can be used to destroy. While rendering Vecna entirely alive or dead may be of use (an in the latter case reduce his power entirely), it is practically difficult and so should not be the party’s major focus.

Çeirtrœana continues on to Vecna’s fourth weakness: his human nature. This nature is composed of several characteristics, only some of which are weaknesses: he is arrogant and has a lust for power, but he is also very intelligent. Regarding arrogance, Vecna may be likely to underestimate others, and might be tricked or fooled, though this might be counteracted by his intelligence. Given that he did not foresee what would happen to the party after the events of the prophecy, there is proof that he cannot foresee every possibility. Regarding his lust for power, Çeirtrœana argues that the party might be able to use this against him if they know what he wants. They can use this knowledge to prepare a trap for him, perhaps.

Çeirtrœana pauses her presentation here and asks the party if they know anything else about Vecna. Riii offers that he has an Eladrin eye and hand, which Çeirtrœana says may be important, and Lo-Kag offers that he has stolen much of what he has, including his divinity. Çeirtrœana suspects this might be a secret aspect of his domain, and it recontextualizes his murdering Bahamut, given Bahamut was a god of law.

As they ponder this, Lo-Kag observes that, though he has seen arcane and divine power used to create undead, he has not seen primal power used to do the same. Çeirtrœana explains that, while primal power can be used to communicate with the dead, it cannot be used to raise the dead or create ghosts. Though she doesn’t know much about it, she agrees primal power is a possible weakness for Vecna. Lo-Kag and Chaedi inform Çeirtrœana of their experiment with Lo-Kag using the Turn Undead prayer. She agrees his form might give Vecna some connection to him, since the form was caused by the Raven Queen and Vecna is taking over her domain. However, Çeirtrœana and Lo-Kag both assume Lo-Kag’s form does not pose a threat to Vecna, or he would not have drawn Lo-Kag’s attention to it.

This discussion of the Raven Queen’s weakening power prompts Chaedi to ask why Bahamut was killed before her. Was Bahamut weakened before he was killed and the party was simply unaware? If not, why would Vecna not have picked the weaker target first? This question allows Çeirtrœana to introduce her second major topic.

Predicting and Countering Vecna’s Plans (Order of Gods’ Deaths, Battle of the 5 Gods, Vecna’s Army)
She begins by outlining the most obvious part of Vecna’s plan: killing the gods. She has several research questions listed out, but focuses on the fact that, since Vecna had centuries to plan, the party should assume that the plan has always been to kill Bahamut first. Lo-Kag wonders if Bahamut really has died. Given Vecna’s intelligence and love of secrets, is it possible he has just been somehow incapacitated? When Vecna battled Vax Vith, he had to bring an army. Riii and Chaedi point out that they’ve had confirmation from Melora herself and a cleric of Bahamut that the dragon god is dead. Still, Chaedi asks Çeirtrœana if Vecna’s rise to godhood might have made him powerful enough to defeat Bahamut on his own. The angel of Corellon replies that it’s possible he could have done it alone given that both are now gods, but given they have no information on what happened it’s very hard to say.

Riii poses another question: How does prophecy fit into truth and lies? If prophecies are true, can they counter Vecna in some way? Çeirtrœana considers this, and suggests that the truth of a prophecy lies in its realization. It is complicated, though, if the prophecy is hidden, in whole or in parts. Speaking of prophecy, Çeirtrœana notes she had been searching for a book that contained the gods’ curses after their battle with Vecna, but was unable to find a copy. Though she says it’s likely just been misplaced, Riii and Chaedi tell her this seems unlikely: it may have been stolen. Chaedi, without revealing anything about Kerradunath’s impressive library, tells Çeirtrœana she knows of the book, and has notes on these curses.

When she is done reading from her notes, Lo-Kag immediately asks how Vecna could have killed Bahamut if Bahamut’s curse would have caused Vecna to receive the same blow. Çeirtrœana agrees this would have been a problem, but it also explains why Vecna would have needed to kill Bahamut first. Lo-Kag wonders if the curse might still be in effect, despite Bahamut’s death. Chaedi doesn’t believe it’s likely (Arcana: 16). Çeirtrœana, however, has heard of curses having more power if uttered before death, and continuing to have power after the one who spoke the curse has long since died.

Lo-Kag considers the contents of the book again, and is struck by the reference to Bahamut being betrayed. He asks how this might have happened, and how the gods might have trusted Vecna in the first place. Neither Chaedi (Religion: 42) nor Çeirtrœana can offer an explanation. Lo-Kag then wonders aloud if this historical tale might in fact be prophecy. Çeirtrœana asks him to explain, and he points out that while this battle may have happened in the past it may also be the outline for the battle to come. As the party ponders this, Bright ask his own question: Who wrote this history down? Chaedi checks the author’s name, and immediately turns to Riii.

“Vethpeiros of Senaliesse.”

Riii nudges Moreth with the name, and he conjures an image for her of an elderly-looking eladrin with a well-maintained blond moustache and ink-stained clothing, holding some scrolls. Moreth tells her Vethpeiros was a wandering researcher, who would leave Senaliesse for years at a time and then return to write books about what he had seen. She asks where he is now, and Moreth says he died. Excited at the lead, Riii turns to the rest of the party.

“We know him!”

Bright frowns at her. “We do?”

Riii explains to the room what Moreth has told her and suggests that, despite his death, Chaedi might still be able to communicate with him. Though she can’t guarantee they will get the answers they seek, Chaedi can certainly think of one way to get some information out of him, in the form of the Speak with Dead ritual. That settled, Riii compliments Bright, calling him a genius. Chaedi backs the compliment up, putting her own spin on it in the hopes he will pick up on the meaning. Çeirtrœana awkwardly interrupts the conversation, hoping to get back to the rest of her presentation. The party settles down, and she turns to some of the research questions she’s listed for this section.

Çeirtrœana points out that Vecna would have considered the gods’ reactions in his planning. Might they be behaving differently now that Bahamut is dead? Are some of them hiding? Do any consider themselves safe? Are they? Given specific answers to these questions, can the party detect an order of priority that he might choose for killing them? Chaedi offers that he might be killing them in the order of the history or, as Lo-Kag suggested, prophecy, in the book. In that case, Corellon would be next. The idea makes Riii shiver.

Çeirtrœana thinks this is possible, but presses the party consider other issues. What vacuums are created by the deaths of the gods? For example, Vecna must have known that creatures like the evanissu would have detected, and taken advantage of, Bahamut’s death. The party must deal not only with Vecna himself, but with the chaos caused by his plans. What else does Vecna achieve by killing the gods? He wants power. This is why he became a god in the first place. But, in addition to using his divine powers, how else might he seek power? He has a history of using an army of undead against the Raven Queen. Does he still have those armies? How might he use them?

Chaedi offers that the party killed hundreds of them in the cave when they fought Vecna, but that many more exist in Gloomwrought and Vecna has a system for convincing the citizens of Gloomwrought to agree to deaths spent in undead servitude. They also don’t know how many other undead he has at his disposal that may be hidden away somewhere. Çeirtrœana emphasizes the importance of identifying where he might deploy the army. The idea triggers something in Chaedi, who asks if Corellon, as the god of the Fey, might be weakened by the deaths of many Fey. Çeirtrœana says this would likely be the case. Riii jumps in as asks if something similar could be applied to Vecna and the undead, and Çeirtrœana again says this is likely.

She comes, finally, to her conclusion, which is effectively that, given that the party has lots of hypotheses and no proof, they must compose a complex, multi-part plan, and put as many aspects of it as possible into motion in a short period of time, in the hopes that all, or at least enough, of their efforts succeed in weakening Vecna to the point that he can be defeated. She thanks them for their attention and Chaedi, remembering the ends of similar presentations in Gloomwrought, claps, leading the rest of the party to join in (though Riii keeps her show of appreciation to three claps).

Post-Presentation and INTENSE EMOTIONS

As the clapping dies down, Çeirtrœana asks her own question to the party: are they truly set on their attempt to defeat Vecna? Lo-Kag cuts off any answers, mumbling to himself about “a thousand thousand fireworks” while he looks at the board. When prompted, he suggests that Vecna’s armies might be defeated by the sun, by something similar to the spell Vecna used to light up the night sky and defeat Vax Vith. Chaedi agrees: they might be able to do something about the smog in Gloomwrought too, and maybe that will affect the undead there. Çeirtrœana, frustrated, interrupts and repeats her question. Riii responds with some annoyance: yes, of course the party is sure. Why is this even a question?

Çeirtrœana nods and reaches behind the easel, pulling out a long, thin box, which she carefully brings over to the party. She opens it, revealing a long branch, twine and rope wrapped around parts of it. At one end is a spherical, purple crystal set into the wood, and further along that end, at the tip, is a glowing, red crystal. She offers it to Riii, saying she’s heard it might be of use to her.

Riii approaches and takes it, and both of the crystals glow more brightly. When her hand wraps around the wood, she feels power flow through her, and Moreth makes a pleased little sound in her mind. The crystal on the end glows brightly, red shifting to white, and the whole staff bursts into flame. Riii can’t help feeling it was made for her. She asks where Çeirtrœana got it, and learns that it belongs to the angel, who hasn’t always held her post at the Guild of Sages. She has no use for it now. Riii, thrilled to the point of generosity with the gift, holds out her own, metal staff, and insists Çeirtrœana holds on to it for her while Riii has hers. Then, concentrating her arcane powers, she changes the staff so that it sparks with red fireworks that burst soundlessly and harmlessly along the wood. Çeirtrœana is surprised: she’s never seen it do that before. Still, she’s pleased it will be put to good use. Her gift given, she tells the party they are free to stay and discuss amongst themselves, or move the discussion out of her office if they prefer. She remains available to answer their questions.

As Riii continues to examine the staff, Chaedi does ask another question: does Çeirtrœana know what happens to angels when their gods die? She’s already figured out that Vecna’s Dead Angels are stolen, corrupted angels of other gods (Religion: 41). However, she cannot decide what might happen to her if Melora died, or to Çeirtrœana if Corellon did (Religion: 28). Çeirtrœana responds she does not know, but suggests an encounter with an angel of Bahamut would solve the mystery. Lo-Kag ventures that some at Sigil’s temple to Bahamut might be able to contact one of these angels.

In the silence that follows this discussion, Bright asks Chaedi to repeat the part from the book about Bahamut’s curse. She does so, and he suggests Vecna may have killed Bahamut by using Tayschrenn’s hand, because that wouldn’t have counted as a weapon, magic, or Vecna’s own frame. Chaedi, chilled by the idea, counters that Vecna could have taken someone else’s hand before, so it seems odd that he wait to take Tayschrenn’s. Çeirtrœana however, says that it might be the case that Vecna might not be able to use mortal body parts because of the divine power coursing through him. Is it possible this “Tayschrenn” was somehow capable of containing this kind of power, despite not being an angel? Lo-Kag informs her that all of the party members had been used of vessels by the gods, and so this might have made Vecna’s use of Tayschrenn’s hand possible.

Riii protests that technically Lo-Kag was wrong, because archfey aren’t immortal. This surprises Çeirtrœana, causing Riii to contact Moreth about the subject. He assures her he is immortal, save for the one way of killing archfey that Riii knows about. He teases her about worrying about him, and she quickly ignores him to report back to Çeirtrœana that she must have been mistaken. The angel is confused, and so Riii further explains that she is part archfey. Çeirtrœana is clearly excited by this idea, but Riii shuts down any questions.

Chaedi picks up the discussion by asking Çeirtrœana what she asked Mr. Mole: is there a door to Latherna in Sigil? Çeirtrœana says there is, and the information shouldn’t take her long to find, but then she can’t help but ask Riii which archfey she’s housing. Teasing Moreth, Riii responds “some forgotten monarch named ‘Moreth’”. Though Moreth respond with continued teasing about her worrying about him, Çeirtrœana is shocked, and immediately recognizes Moreth as the name of the King of Summer, causing the archfey to preen. Despite Riii’s half-hearted warnings that Çeirtrœana’s excitement will make him impossible to deal with for the rest of the day, the angel continues, commenting about the rumours after he disappeared and asking about where he has been since then. Riii, recognizing Çeirtrœana might be able to answer some of their earlier questions, asks what she knows about what happened after Moreth disappeared.

Çeirtrœana reports that Moreth was said to have gone on a hunting trip initially, and that his disappearance was caused by the Prince of Frost or the Sea Lords. However, as there was no proof, these suspicions merely amounted to accusations being thrown back and forth until relations between the courts stabilized again. There were also rumours that he had betrayed Tiandra somehow, and left her to go form his own domain elsewhere. Afterwards, speaking of him in the Summer Court was banned. She suspects there is truth in there somewhere, because Moreth is here now and not in the Summer Court.

In Riii’s head, Moreth is on a rampage. He isn’t out to hurt anyone or destroy anything, but he wants to express his anger somehow. Riii keeps his fiery impulses under control, and laughs out loud at the idea of the hunting trip, leaning on her new staff. Around her, the air simmers. The party stays calm. Lo-Kag is completely unfazed, while Bright sits ready to pull out his daggers but suspects he won’t have to. Chaedi, noticing Çeirtrœana’s discomfort, offers her a little smile, and comments that she must have heard about archfey and their “intense” emotions.

Riii immediately, and loudly, cuts her off, screaming that others might consider her dramatic but they do not know the full story and cannot decide if the emotional reaction is warranted. As she talks, her voice shifts, becoming the deep and, to the party, familiar voice of Moreth. The sound of crackling, popping fire fills the room as he speaks, detailing how Tiandra should pay for her crime, how she betrayed the Summer King in the most intimate embrace, how she is a liar and should burn, and freeze, and be forgotten to history, and be spoken of only as “Tiandra the Betrayer”. When the diatribe is finished, Riii finds herself breathing hard, a foot and a half off the ground. She floats back down, and pushes the hair out of her face. To the room, she explains that while, yes, that did get “intense”, what Moreth said was true. To Moreth, however, she suggests that Tiandra may have betrayed him as a result of the rumour that he was planning to leave. Insulted by the thought that there could be a hint of truth in the rumours that circulated after his death, Moreth insists they will only speak about the issue later. Both of them can sense each other’s rage at both the past betrayal and the current accusations.

At her desk, a shocked, but also mesmerized, Çeirtrœana picks up a scrolls and begins to scribble on it. Chaedi quickly makes some excuses about leaving Çeirtrœana to her work and their meeting with Amata, mostly to get Riii out of the room. Riii allows herself to be herded out, and they leave behind Çeirtrœana, still scribbling, who anxiously asks if they will return later. Chaedi hurriedly says they will try, and then the party is out in the hallway.

What will the party do with their newfound information? How many paths does it open, and which of these will they take? Might they go speak to the gold dragon? To Vethpeiros of Senaliesse? Travel to the black desert? To Latherna? Identify the location of Vecna’s army or phylactery? How much of what they’ve learned is true? Is one of Vecna’s domains really theft? And what does that mean for the party and their mission? One way or another, it seems clear they’ll need one hell of a strategy to defeat the creator of those…

DARK HOLES IN THE WORLD

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