1 Sydenstar (Yulisen/Friday) 845 PD
Still down below
Leading in from a conversation between Tam, Rinn, and Stubby regarding a journal Tam found in the ruins somewhere, all of a sudden there is a crash of thunder that they can hear, even down the crevasse and through the tunnel, along with the sounds of rain. At the same time, Fisch snorts and snores himself awake. The lightning flashes, showing the rats in the cavern, and they take off- and by the next flash, they are gone. As well as Osysa, it looks like. Somehow.
Fisch wonders how long he’s been asleep, and is a bit stunned to find out only for two hours.
They go to investigate, and find rain pouring down ‘outside’, which is normal for this time of day according to their guide. And yes, Osysa is gone. The ‘caved-in’ tunnel was also a tricky illusion, and there is enough room there now that she could leave that way if she wanted to. Fisch says he can no longer smell the sphinx in there.
Stubby starts working on a Detect Magic ritual, and while she works on that, Rinn takes a few moments to ask Fisch about the prayer the bear had said over the grave by the Birth Heart tree. Fisch says it was what Melora taught them, and Rinn asks to hear more of it. Fisch starts speaking in Primordial, which Rinn understands perfectly, asking Fisch a question/clarification in it (no Zemnian accent!) without realizing it. The bear is amazed, and asks if Melora taught it to Rinn as well- leading to a little bit of a ‘what do you mean?’, and Fisch gives the unsettled sorcerer a bear hug in reassurance.
Stubby’s Detect Magic (via goggles!) starts up, and she finds illusion magic, conjuration, as well as ‘religious’ magic, all through the cavern, the ziggurat, and Osysa’s bed. They all start looking around, and Fisch detects something in the air- and his finely tuned bear nose detects a draft of fresh air, leading him to discover a mundanely hidden staircase in one of the rock walls.
During the search, Tam finds a note in Osysa’s bed, addressed to her. It reads:
“Your future is your own, your past is your own. The path you follow now is your own. I will see you again at the End.”
They decide the stairs would be safer for going up then trying to climb the crevasse in the rain, so they gather up their things (plus some more food the rats left for them), and make their way up. (Stubby, Tam, Rinn, Fisch.) Stubby takes point, and alerts them to any and all weak spots in the stairs. They get up nearly to the top, only to be stopped by a giant gap in the stairs and hole in the floor above them in the main building of the Take. It’s only about 10 feet up, and Fisch gives Rinn a boost up.
For a moment Rinn thinks that he saw someone up there, but on a better look around sees no one. It’s what’s left of the Take. Offices ransacked, furniture broken, but no bodies in here, thankfully. Rinn lays down on the floor to offer a hand to Stubby, and then Tam, as Fisch boosts them up. As for Fisch, he warns them to step back, and then JUMPS up all on his own. (Though the broken flooring around the hole isn’t happy about it, and doing this again may break things further.)
Where to next, since they have some time in the day? The location of the Take is pretty much in the middle of the city. Fisch starts mentioning places that seem like they have been important. Rinn pulls out the map, and after orienting himself, the bear points out the various places and the state they’re currently in. (The Trial Forge is a big hole in the ground with a statue in it.)
Stubby’s Detect Magic is still up, and looking at the pillar of flame from the Platinum Dragon Sanctuary, she can see that it is all types of magic, plus some she’s never seen before. Tan also shares Osysa’s note with them, translating the Undercommon so they understand it.
They finally decide on heading to what remains of the Raven Queen temple, a place that smells like blood according to Fisch. They bundle up against the rain, and head out.
To the Blood Bath
They make their way through the ruined city. The few other rats they see wave to them, word has spread that they are allies (at least to the friendly ones). Heading through the Quadroads, they go by the Crown of Erathis which has been totally destroyed, only a skeletal arm remains. There’s another crevasse by it, but it’s not as deep (they can easily see the bottom). Some of the ground around here isn’t that stained red-orange color, and there are some ‘regular’ houses and storefronts that aren’t stained either, but they are all damaged. Holes in roofs, regular mold and rotting, nature reclaiming the structures. Fisch leads them off the roads to cut through the center of Quadroads, taking them along a cliffside. There are plenty of simple graves around here, and the rain is turning the ground (normal, and orange-red) to mud.
They go past the remains of the Velvet Cabaret, and then they start seeing chunks of black rock and jagged pieces of obsidian, like window shards. Fisch knows the way, stopping them by a pile of stone that looks like it was collected and organized by someone, on the edge of one of the craters. He points down into it, saying that’s where the blood smell is- and what is left of the Raven Queen’s temple has been dropped down into this crevasse.
Stubby sends Sentri flying down with a light so they can better see. The crevasse narrows, almost in concentric rings, so bits of the temple are caught on each ‘step’. Though thanks to Sentri’s help, they see stairs around the edge going down. Stairs that look newer than 5 years, carved into the side with Stone Shape. The rain has stopped, and they decide to head down –
Tam takes a moment to use Prestidigitation to dry herself off, and she catches Rinn’s amused mutter of “schmetterling”, and nicely guilts him into giving her a definition much like she did with “zaubermaus” before. (Rinn’s going to have to start watching his Zemnian around these two.)
The crevasse, and the temple, aren’t too far down. They get to the main remnants, only to find that there’s more from the center of the building that fell down even further- and there’s even more stairs going down. They can also see the entry to the catacombs, and it looks intact, though when Stubby and Tam look at it, they can see the odd flickering of two versions, (similar to Gleesom talking in the RQ temple in NV). Though for Rinn and Fisch, they only see one. One of the flickerings matches Stubby’s map, though the solid version matches the map exactly. (Though there’s something there, and all of them resist psychic damage except for Fisch, who gets the equivalent of an ice cream headache.)
Of course, it is quickly realized that Fisch doesn’t know what they are there for- and they quickly bring him up to speed about the timelines, the Raven Queen, the trammels, and the Sword of Kas- and what happened to the sword in the ‘real’ timeline, and why this one here is ‘wrong’. If they can find the ‘wrong’ sword, that should fix things, somehow.
Then of course, is the literal blood bath, and Stubby using that to talk to the Raven Queen as she was invited to do. Which one should be first is up to her- and she decides on the blood bath. Fisch finds it easily enough by scent, and it’s found in the crevasse, still somehow filled with fresh blood. Stubby strips down, (Rinn takes some of her things, gauntlet, cloak, armor, and then turns away, cheeks red), and gets into the pool.
Raven Queen Visit
A deep breath, and Stubby slips under the level of liquid, staying there. She thinks of the story her dad told her about her uncle’s journey, and how it differed from his. Percy did appreciate the Raven Queen, so now there is a temple in Whitestone for her.
Stubby has had a different journey in becoming an adventurer, but she’s always looked up to the stories about her own family and how they became heroes.
She’s still holding her breath, feeling the pressure build and build in her chest, until the moment it seems too much and she would need to go up for air-
And then it goes away.
She doesn’t feel dead, but like she’s still breathing, and seeing nothing but red all around her. And then she sees a raven, the old raven from the temple in New Vasselheim, the Old Man. He tilts his head one way, then the other, looking at her.
And then he speaks. “So you have come this far for our Mistress. The journey your uncle took is not yours. And this is the beginning. My queen will take no promise from you as she did your uncle. If you choose to follow her, to follow in his footsteps, this must be a choice not forced upon you by extreme circumstances. The things that happened to make your uncle swear himself to our queen will not be repeated. We will not accept it, the harm that happened to your mother. Your life is your own. We will not stop you, we will aid you.”
Then he flickers, like the time shift Stubby has seen in the temple in New Vasselheim, and at the entry to the catacombs here. This raven looks older, more beleaguered, angrier. This raven continues. “But the path is treacherous. The sword is here, but it is not here. Only the one that can see me can see the sword.”
He flickers back to the previous ‘Old Man’. “And you can see me and me.”
A flicker back. “If you go below, there will be peril. But if you find the sword from my timeline and destroy it, you will do my queen a boon. And you will begin to heal this land.”
The raven spreads his wings, and separates into two ravens, who turn to each other and step together-
And then there is a masked woman, dressed in black. The Raven Queen.
“You are brave, I will give you that. You are good of heart, and pure of soul. Eventually, when it is your time, I hope you will choose to spend time with me. If so, you will be welcomed. Your uncle would also love to see you. The last he saw of you has been through veiled eyes.
“If you can do this, I will aid you on your quest. But when you go below, I will not be able to help you there. The tomb you four must face alone. Lead them well, their lives will be in your hands and no one else’s.
“You do not not have to do this. But there is none other than you who can succeed…” At this, she looks to the side, then continues. “Perhaps there is another. But today, you are here, and this quest is yours. Do you accept it?”
Of course Stubby wants to know who else might be able to do this!
“You have siblings, young one. Think not you are the only one who has heard stories of my champion and been inspired.”
Stubby jokes that now she has to beat them to it. (Half jokes.)
“I expect nothing else from you.
“Do you remember how your family defeated Vecna?” Stubby replies that it seems different in this time.
“It was not through the aim of one god alone that Vecna was defeated. Each of you belongs, as it were, to a different god, though one of you belongs to two. Aid them, as they will aid you. And there, you will learn, it is not Vecna you must fear, but one who follows in his footsteps, and wishes to succeed where Vecna failed.”
“The Empress?” Stubby asks.
“No, she is a simple creature, blinded by pain and desire, and revenge.”
“So another being that wishes to ascend?”
“Correct. And he who wishes to ascend is he who should be feared.”
“No, Flynn is only a double edged sword. He does wish ascension to rule, knowledge to hoard, and power to keep. As long as he is in the stone, he is relatively harmless. But if he finds his way out, you would be a puppet for his machinations.” (Such as Emor was.)
Stubby thinks on this, and then has another, seemingly mundane, unrelated question. She makes a motion to search in a pocket- but she’s not wearing anything… “I have another item, not in the same scope, but something that might be dangerous.”
“That focus that you found.”
“Is there a way to…? Fix it? Use it safely? Does it have any souls trapped inside it?”
“That’s a relief.”
“That is a stone you should show to your father when you see him next.” The Raven Queen answers, then gets back to things.
“But the beginnings of journeys are not always easily identified as such. Had you not found that focus, had not desired to use it, had you not listened to the stories, not taken them to heart, that day you would not have attempted to stand against a dragon and her wyrmlings, and that day you would not have traveled to a time that is not and traveled back to a time that is, and would not have (unclear) saved me and Vasselheim. So it’s good that you took that stone. It can be used, yes. Without harming you? Yes, but not easily. You will learn how, and when you do, you will begin to become all you are destined to be. I see a great future for you, but it is perilous.”
Stubby certainly knows this. “Most anything that’s worth achieving is. Thank you, from my parents, for what you gave them to make the trammel. You had to give up part of yourself to do that, and I admired that.”
“I am often misunderstood, especially by your mother. But the pain she has over the loss of her brother, who was with her every day of their lives from conception- of course she hates me for that. But I gave of myself to prevent the rise of Vecna, because I saw in your father, in all of them- even the goliath and the gnome- I saw within them the purity of soul that would put others before themselves for balance. Death is natural, and I have never once regretted accepting the deal with your uncle. If I didn’t, you would not be standing here.
“And if I hadn’t, who knows how terrible this explosion would have been?” The Raven Queen makes a motion with a hand. The blood draws back, and Stubby can see Vasselheim in all of its glory. She’s floating above the city, wrapped in a cloak of raven feathers. The sun is shining, the time of year seems different than it had been earlier, all seems peaceful and normal-
And then the Bastion of the Platinum Dragon erupts into a tower of blue flame. She can hear people screaming, and the ground starts shaking. There’s another eruption, and another. It’s the destruction of Vasselheim, and as it continues the blood flows back down over it until there is nothing but red all around.
“Regardless of who went where, who was born, who died, that moment was inevitable. The folly of man. It will happen again.”
Stubby nods slowly. “You wish the sword destroyed? How?”
“Do you remember how your father destroyed his gun?” (“Acid?”) That is one option. But you may also find your solution in the tomb itself if you know where to look. Keep your wits about you, and remember the stories you’ve been told of how one destroys magical items permanently. For this sword, there are only two in all of Othanzia who would be able to do this. Of these two I have chosen you, but if you succeed or fail it is by your own merits. Succeed, and I will reward you and owe you a boon.”
“I’m not doing it for a reward, I want to help,” replies Stubby.
“That’s why I chose you. You are doing it because you saw a wrong and wish to right it. What god can ask for more?
“Your friends are worrying. When you return, only seconds will have passed for them to ease their minds. Now I must go.”
“Say hi to my uncle for me?”
“You may do that yourself, maybe.” She steps back into the blood, and nothing remains but a raven feather.
And now Stubby’s lungs are bursting from a lack of air. She sits up out of the blood, gasping. In her hand is a raven feather- and it seems only a few seconds have passed. She looks at the feather, and it then melts away into blood and splashes down into the bath. (As soon as he sees she’s alright, Rinn goes back to carefully looking away.) Fisch offers Stubby a huge (and somewhat dirty) towel, and Tam carefully starts prestidigitating Stubby (and the towel) clean.
Fisch asks if it worked- and while Stubby hurriedly gets dressed, she tells them mostly all of what happened and what she and the Raven Queen discussed. (She does NOT mention the stone focus she took from the ziggurat back home in Whitestone.) When mentioning the danger and threats in the catacombs below, she says she won’t ask them to go-
And Tam retorts that when she herself tried doing that exact same thing, it didn’t go over well with the others. So there.
Though now all four of them see the double image flickering over the entrance to the catacombs…