Never had I seen a stranger or more horrifying thing than when The Beacon used the waters of Lethe to open up a hole to the Void and began spewing forth a vile, corrosive, viscous silver fluid from his body that moved under its own power. It was a horror that only intensified when screaming faces took shape in the mass’s surface….faces I could recognize by their helms as members of Dace’s Smoking Skulls.
This….”mass” would eventually entirely fall into the Void. Of that there was no question. However, there was more of it than there was of the hole, and the overflow was dissolving the floor of the room, and reaching for us as well.
To make things improbably worse, the doors to the chamber vanished, replaced with glowing runes that encircled the room along the now blank walls. The main door had its frame left behind, with a First Age sigil above, three of the strange runes stacked within, and some strange switches along the sides.
Caemlyn had but a moment to translate the sigil before having to focus on her spellcasting to keep us from dying: “Gateway to Peace.” It became clear: the room was a giant cryptex that we had to solve before we could leave.
When we next see The Beacon, I plan to ask him his thinking behind the design of this room. His rationale will determine wether he gets one or both of my boots up his ass.
Caemlyn, Durandal, Rose, and Byrrden were magnificent at keeping the abomination at bay while Vox and I tried to solve the puzzle, me standing over the Eclipse and Bo’g’wai standing over us both.
It couldn’t have taken more than a minute or two, but the encroaching death and oblivion stretched everything into eternity before Vox and I snapped the correct runes into place, both of us simultaneously piecing together the solution was essentially a hieroglyph of a coffin.
The doorway became a milky membrane that would allow us to exit the Void chamber, which was rapidly losing all of what remained of its floor. Bo’g’wai had to transform into a hurricane of plant life to fit, and Durandal took a ridiculous risk to use the waters of Lethe to free some of the trapped Smoking Skulls, but everyone tumbled out safely.
The thing, Sun be praised, could not follow through. The doorway did not stop us from hearing its maddening whispers slowly fade, however, as it slipped into the Void.
Not even on the ice in the depths of winter have I felt such a chill inside me as I did at that moment of silence.
But we were safe for now. Sort of. We were no longer in a shadowland; instead standing on a lip of black marble over a fissure that threw up the glow of molten rock from far, FAR below, but at least we were only on the edge of a metaphorical oblivion instead of actual oblivion.
Contrasting with the darkness all around, a white wall faced us from across the fissure, and on it two strange sigils.
“It’s a tally,” said Durandal. “Of Deathlords.”
The sigils were of The Mask of Winters and The Walker in Darkness, two Deathlords who had already been obliviated, and it stood to reason that more would follow. But that was a worry for another day. Now, it was time to take the conveniently provided staircase back to the surface….with a largely immobile Bo’g’wai on my shoulders, who was remarkably easy to carry despite his size.
We emerged in Black, which was no longer Black but a noodle house called Nibbles Noodles. Something something glamours, realities…I did not care. It was time to eat, then sleep.
The next day, Rose busied herself checking in on Durandal first, and then later Dace, providing bacon for all of the above, and offering up her Guardians to the latter as auxillary troops for Zion.
Byrrden woke up to being kicked, an activity which wound up consuming most of his day. He did take a moment with his trainer to discuss a strange mirror he swiped from Beacon’s void room because of course there was a hidden treasure in there and of course Byrrden both spied it and took the time to swipe it. I think he’s mad sometimes, but I cannot deny he is good at what he does.
After determining that touching the sigils in the mirror would not result in being devoured by the Void, he touched the one that was the sigil we saw underground as belonging to the Mask of Winters. A full dossier of information presented itself. Byrrden had pinched an intelligence briefing on all of the Death Lords.
Meanwhile, I took time to visit Durandal myself. Though I was somewhat embarrassed by it, I explained to him my hesitation and fears in initially refusing the Circle. He seemed to understand, and now that I was ready, he welcomed me fully.
It was good to have a family again.
The day continued with everyone about their own business until Durandal summoned all of us to the Bastion Invictus to lay out our plans for the future, given the new information we received from the Beacon himself and what we discovered down below.
With the apparent movement being made by the Deathlords, we would need to preemptively start whittling them down. While not the weakest, the one known as Pharaoh Who Dreams of Endless Silence is the most immediate threat.
Byrrden presented his magic mirror to us and demonstrates its utility by bringing up as much information as possible on Pharaoh. Unfortunately, there was not as much as we would have preferred, but we knew three important facts: it focuses on the necromantic resurrection of singularly powerful dead and ghosts; it has servitors called Judges; and its agents are mostly active around Harborhead. This was at least enough to get started.
Unfortunately, getting started would have to wait as Durandal had a detour in mind first: a prisoner exchange with Lookshy, himself for the First Company.
Perhaps indelicately, I expressed that this proposal couldn’t be as stupid as it sounded, given that Lookshy now follows the Immaculate position, which includes the execution of Solars. The plan is for Vox to accompany him as a diplomat and secret Solar agent, while Byrrden would act as a hidden protector. In the interim, Rose would hold down Zion.
To keep me from losing my mind, I would begin research and construction on a Solar demesne that had recently been found outside of the city. It’s true that there is nothing like a large project to occupy a worried mind.
We had two weeks to prepare, whatever Lookshy’s response. Rose worked with Vox to get his new business up and running. Caemlyn studied, and Byrrden presumably got kicked a great deal.
For me, another enormous project presented itself. A former Twilight friend of Durandal’s had begun work on an airship that was never completed, The Hammer of Dawn. Taking me to the demesne where it was stored, I could see the skeleton of the beast hanging in dry dock.
It was majestic. There are Haslanti shipwrights I’ve known who would’ve traded all they own to work on a project such as the one hanging before me. What’s more, it needed an animating intelligence installed, and that process would provide the groundwork for creating a way to integrate REBA into the manse project. I would clearly have my hands full for some time.
Which would be good, because the diplomats returned from Lookshy with the response: they accept Durandal’s offer.
The night before his departure, Vox was visited by a strange dream: a slowly turning white rose, with the constant questions, “What’s behind the rose? What’s beneath the rose? What does the rose hide?”
The day of the departure, he brings it up to both Caemlyn, who points out Durandal’s white rose clasp, and Durandal himself. Neither are sure, but Durandal feels it’s nothing bad.
Goodbyes follow, with Rose being instructed to trust Medli on all issues, and Byrrden’s trainer affirming that he’ll be fine.
The ship leaves and in two days meets with the Lookshyan airship the SkyWolf, accompanied by airborne warstriders, and Durandal is taken while Vox and a hidden Byrrden fly behind.
When they land, a wood aspect Terrestrial by the name Yushito Habo greets Durandal, praises him for coming to his “proper reward”, and attaches some metal object on Durandal’s chest that burrows into the bone and completely separates him from his Solar essence, leaving him powerless and in agony.
Back in Rathess, Rose is greeted in her home by a strange visitor: a seven foot tall, painfully thin man all in black leather, with soulsteel claws, and a jack o lantern helmet with soulfire eyes.
“I am an emissary from your greatest ally from the dead. I am Autumn’s Bounty Crushed to Pulp, a deathknight to the Lover Clad in Raiment of Tears.”