In the Chamber of the Seals, the Epics are feeling the first stabs of fatigue from their hours-long fight, holding the Aberrant incursion from the Far Realm at bay.
By now, Anika is wreathed by a whirlwind of flaming blades, and a storm of black fire rages in the center of the chamber, burning whatever enemies of the Raven Queen may enter.
When Baern leads the paragons into the chamber, the sight that greets them is of endless carnage. The twisted and charred remains of creatures that have no place in our reality litter the floor from end to end. So deep are their bones and tentacled corpses, the wizard has to cast a Fly spell to get into the thick of it.
Wasting no time, he moves to the first of the seals, prepared to start the ritual that will seal up the portals again, however temporarily, and strum the tether to the Far Realm, saving Ardanthor from plunging into the Dominion of Hestavar.
As he works, the Epics listen to the sounds of the ritual, and watch the mystic symbols forming at end of the Oathrod as he traces them in the air before the portal, even as they themselves are busy destroying one of the Beholders that has entered this reality.
Great tentacles, each one larger than a horse, plunge through the openings, wrapping themselves around the very pillars that divide the portals, as if to tear them down, and make the gap into the Far Realm even larger. Belisar charges between the writhing things and Baern, so the wizard can continue the ritual. Ash leaps into the fray to aid his companion, slashing with the great full-blade, left and right, lopping off chunks of the translucent blue flesh. The Paladin is soon trapped in the coils, but with the aid of the avenger, is quickly freed.
Floating serpents flicker through the portal, bending reality so that their very location warps and changes. Each one reacts instinctively to the dwarfs ritual, appearing out of nothingness between moments in time, next to him, nipping at his hands and face with gaping maws of serrated teeth. Anika makes short work of them, while Lyneth concentrates on the Beholder, which is firing rays of maddening light from it’s eyes, and Baern slams shut the first of the three Seals, severing one of the many tentacles.
As Baern continues on to the next portal, Amata summons up the fractured memories of a deeply ancient time, when he was still whole. The ritual here is an echo of another – one far far older than recorded history. He cannot place it completely, being himself but an echo, but it is strong enough of a memory to profoundly disturb him.
Oblivious to that information, Anika is rapidly assimilating the ritual as Baern is performing it. What took an hour of intensive study to impart to the dwarf, the Magister is able to extrapolate in moments, while holding the breach against mind-rending creatures from beyond. With her innate knowledge of Planar effects, and the research into planar drift she’s performed since the beginning of Grimnar’s plans, it’s increasingly clear what pieces go where, and soon she is standing next to Baern, adding her own mystical symbols to his, enhancing, expanding it.
As she dispatches the Beholder, Lyneth has a moment where she can spend time observing what Anika and Baern are doing, and some of the aspects of the ritual seem uncomfortably familiar to her. Before she can fully ascertain their import, a blinding blue light streaks like a meteor from the third portal, nearly striking her. It slams into the far wall, and from the rubble steps a vaguely humanoid creature with tentacles where it’s legs ought to be, and a gout of blue flame spewing from each of it’s hands. It stares at her with a glimmer of intelligence in its eyes, but when it opens its mouth as if to speak, a piercing scream is all that emerges, hitting each register at once. Lyneth grimaces, and they trade off blows until Amata sends it into a demiplane to cool off while they regroup.
While Anika and Baern continue working, more creatures filter through the Seals. Amata then causes time to freeze for the Astral Kraken, so that the two wizards can continue working together.
As the second Seal is closed, Lyneth recalls the link to her training in the Cabinet of Faces. Within the ritual is embedded an undercurrent of Dark Pact power. Linking the strands of the ancient words are variations of the most secret runes known only to the higher echelon of the assassins who raised her. Secrets which she stole before she made her way free of the Cabinet.
Secrets which provide an avenue to accelerate the rituals performance .. at a price.
Acting as a conduit for the life-force of the others, Lyneth funnels the willing sacrifices of her companions into the last portal, and it slams shut. The mountain around them shakes for a whole minute when it is done.
In the days to come, those in that room soon realize they are indelibly linked to the Chamber of the Seals… a tiny nagging tug at their psyche, telling them always that the Seals are not permanent, and that one day.. perhaps soon, they will be breached once more, and THEY will come — it’s enough to give one nightmares…
The Paragons meet with Grimnar in Reikenwold. The artificer confesses that the spidery writing on his warforged plans was too disturbing for him to ignore, and the he now doubts Galendin’s motives. He is willing to take them to the Bright Tower, the demesne of Galendin. However, there are but three tethers left for him to disrupt in order to complete the adjustments and bring his Grand Plan to fruition. The Paragons must decide whether to assist him, or to convince him to abandon his task in the face of Galendin’s possible duplicity.
The Epics return to Urdeths House under the Hill, to check on Volos, who remains pale and sick with a fever beyond Martin or Urdeths power to cure. The group sets out, guided by Cur’s Dark Wandering powers through the natural portals that lead to and from the Feywild, and arrive at the City of Senaliesse, home of Tiandra the Summer Queen.
The eladrin rangers who greet them at the base of the tree city request their names, for the purposes of introduction. Anika responds with her full title, while Lyneth remains in the half-elven form she’s most comfortable with. Cur, Amata and Martin merely provide their first names unadorned. Seemingly satisfied, the ranger returns to the green shadows beneath the white boles, and moments later a platform of smooth wood descends from the greenery. They are invited aboard, and ropy vines wind and haul, and they ascend above the mists and atop the canopy into the Palace of Summer.
The great trees of Senaliesse have branches so wide and flat two carriages could pass without touching. It is along one of these that they are led.
As they pass by some great branches, Anika feels a chill in the air not normal to the Summer Court and spies a single flake of frost on one of the thousand leaves sheltering their way. She beckons to the others — Perhaps Winter has preceded them to the Court of Stars.
At the entrance to the throne room, a young eladrin man accosts Martin, who stands there in his full Raven regalia
“You dare bring death and Winter to Senaliesse?” he spits
But before Martin can respond, the eladrin is restrained by two of his friends, who whisper in his ear. For a second the courtier goes white, but stands his ground. As word of their arrival ripples through the hundreds of Fey courtiers, a wave expands from their place at the door, and from the center of the room, the crowd parts like a sea of reeds, and an old eladrin male strides forward. The Chamberlain walks between the crowd, as whispers flit from fey to faerie and across the room.
When finally he comes to stand before them, the Chamberlain simply bows his head to them, and the furtive whispers redouble in volume until they blend with the leaves rustling above their heads.
“The Summer Queen requests your attendance.” he says, and turns back the way he came.
Exchanging glances, and shrugs, the Epics follow him.