After stepping into the burning pentagram, they fell as through a long tunnel. One where time stretched and contracted and vague shapes rushed past. Glimpses of angels and devils in the periphery pulled focus and vanished when directly upon they looked. Just as a weary feeling of uneasiness settled in, they felt solid rock beneath feet.
They stood in a straight, cylindrical cave. Behind them, the wall shimmered with green magic. Light streamed into the tunnel 100′ before them. The air held a chill and smelled damp. Walking the short distance, they looked out from the edge of the tunnel over a vast valley, illuminated in twilight. Down a short slope, a dark river rushed by. “The Dimwash,” announced Longstream.
In surprise, the group turned to recognize the halfling. He’d been missing since morning and was not in the cathedral before they entered the portal. He’d wandered into high grass, he explained, and becoming lost from the taller folk, lay down to rest and dozed off. From dreams he was plucked to travel with them through the mystical portal.
Beyond the river expanded fields of low grass covering rolling hills that flattened to the shore of a lake. A castle could be seen on a substantial island in the lake, and beyond the far shore, a volcano rose. Red lava poured down the slope of the mountain from the peak which glowed bright as a star. This beacon seemed to be the sole source of light for the valley.
Looking right, the spied a another river cutting through the low hills. Indistinguishable shapes shuffled in the dark land beyond this other river. Looking left, they saw a forest blanking the valley, out which curls of smoke danced up into the ebon above. No stars shone down.
The ghostly visage of a portly man floated up from the river to greet them. He was the rare elf specimen who grew to excess in life, though now clearly an apparition, proven by translucent body and feet that drifted over rather than strode on ground. “I am Josto,” he announced, “and you are outlanders. Follow my instructions, else suffer as this one.” He pointed to a motionless figure midstream.
“I will lead you across if you answer a riddle,” declared the spirit with a genuine grin. “What is lighter than a feather yet even an ogre cannot hold longer than a minute or two?”
“Fire!” blurted one of them. Josto raised a brow. “Air! Breath!” shouted Aderian, and Josto conceded, “That’s the answer I sought!” And he lead them into the wash.
The river ran fast and shallow, though was dark and revealed little details of it’s rocky bed. The elf ghost bid them to join hands, close eyes and allow him to lead them across, for the river’s magic punished all unescorted bodies. As they crossed, whispers drifted up from the rushing water, begging them to peak. The touch of tentacles brushed limbs from the water that barely rose ankle deep.
Presently, they completed the crossing and turned to look again at the statue. Now they were certain it was the elf called Relelchond, one of companions of the clear Rellora. He was stone now, turned that way for not following instruction, explained Josto.
The spirit explained that all visitors must first stand before the three judges: Aikoss, Raddimansosth and Minok. They served the lord of this realm, Haderax who dwelled in his island castle. As they approached a crowd waiting for an audience, Jost continued his brief outline of this strange land.
Aikoss was a young warrior in gleaming armor who ruled the land to the west. Disdain camped on his handsome face. His land was wild, forested and filled with the untamed. The long-bearded Minok ruled the land to the east. Across the River of Forgetfulness, his land held many thousands who waited silently for rebirth. When his subjects heard the call of a distant bell, they shuffled over a bridge crossing the River of Sorrow to the Ivory Gate.
Between these two was an mature man with a short beard called Raddimansosth. He ruled the many islands in the northern areas of the lake that enjoyed a pleasant, unending season. They watched him consult with the other two judges as they dispatched the crowd into one of the three lands. Most were sent off into the meadows of Minok’s land.
Eventually, their turn came to speak with the judges. Aikoss claimed the lot of them, recognizing some tendency to do battle in their past deeds. Raddimansosth conceded, but ordered a short visit to his happy isles for a special mission. He knew their quest and suggested one way to close the portal they knew must be leaking undead into Tosasth. He gave them leave to visit The Jeweler.
Josto brought them to a boat captained by a skeleton. “The dead wander here, but they cannot escape over the Dimwash. None may cross except by escort, yet somehow they do. They make use of the many tunnels that lead to innumerable worlds. The Jeweler will aid you, but you must find a way back over the Dimwash on your own.”
The skeletal captain held out an empty hand and Longstream placed a gold coin. They crowded into the boat as skeletal arms pushed it along by long pole. They curved past the grand castle of Haderax and then among many smaller islands. Presently they arrived at the one where lived the Jeweler who emerged through the doorway of his thatch hut as they hopped from the boat onto the shore.
“I can make a device for your purpose,” explained the slim elf. Bare-chested and tan, he lead them into his hut which contained many gem specimens and a workbench. He asked for jade, which Longstream produced from a pocket, and began delicate carving. When he’d finished, he returned a disc engraved with a pentagram.
“This token will close the gate. Know that it was opened with a soul and shall close only with a soul.”
Longstream handed over a pearl as gesture of thanks, and they returned to the boat. Before long, they were once again on the shore near the three judges. A short debate concluded with the will to head west towards the forests of Aikoss.
Soon they were strolling under dark branches on a cobblestone road. They knew not their destination, only that they needed a way across the Dimwash. Distant moans floated among stirring leaves, combining into an alien melody. The tones strengthened as the moved deeper and soon most of them felt an evil pull.
Brainless, most of the party began walking off the road toward two buzzard-winged monsters. They were harpies, though this recognition meant nothing to those under the charm of the song. Tienarth, unaffected, produced his wand of paralyzation. He blasted one harpy who fell from the air to the ground, quivering.
With shock of one voice silenced, Aderian shrugged off the spell. He pulled his dagger out and swiped at the foul harpy. Recognizing the danger, she flew beyond site, back into the dim forest.
They left the defeated harpy as she lay, not wishing to bring the wrath of any god in this realm in destroying any native creature, however evil. They moved on down the road and stopped at a bridge. A wart-covered troll emerged from the bridge to demand, “answer my riddle or cook in my stewpot!”
“What is so delicate that merely speaking its name destroys it?” he asked.
“Silence!” shouted Ferris immediately. “Everyone knows that one.”
The troll retreated under his bridge once more. They crossed and entered a small village.
Across and Back
In the village, a grungy elf approached and inquired about which gang they wished to join. They refused his conversation and he slinked off.
They suspected some path over the river in this area and headed west out of the village and soon found boulders placed to allow careful crossing. They wondered if this would allow the simple undead to cross, so they waited. After some time, a pair of zombies approached. Midway over the crossing, one was pushed into the water where it instantly froze into a white stone. The other was destroyed.
As they debated a way to destroying the path over the river, they noticed former zombie dissolve from stone into sand and wash away.
Though many plans were considered, in the end they agreed no practical method would disable the path without grave danger to themselves. They then agreed that closing the portal to their own world held prime priority. So they hiked along the outer edge of the river to return to the tunnel from where they entered this realm.
“I will close the portal,” announced Rellora. “This is my destiny.” Her lone surviving campanion, Gourk, demonstrated sadness and resignation. She handed the healing staff to Longstream with a quizzical glance and then motioned for them to go into the portal.
- Treasure: none
- Kills – 200 XP
- Characters – 15,000 XP each for closing the portal
- Virtues: none
- Vices: none